The Beginning of the Angkor Period
In 802, a ceremony took place at Mount Kulen, to the north of the future site of Angkor, proclaiming Jayavarman II (r. 790-after 830?) the unifier and sole sovereign of Cambodia. The statue of Vishnu found on this mountain reflects the increasingly stylized drapery and more imposing demeanor of figural sculpture in this period. While Jayavarman II is the founder of the Angkor monarchy, it was under one of his successors, Indravarman I (r. 877-886), that the great religious monuments typical of the centralized Angkor state began to appear.
Indravarman established his capital at Hariharalaya, sixteen miles south of what would become Angkor. He ordered the construction of many temples there, including the Bakong, the first of the monumental temple-mountains. These towering, stepped pyramids symbolized Mount Meru, the home of the gods and the center of the universe. Indravarman also had an enormous reservoir built (nearly 4.5 by 1.5 miles), which fed temple moats and provided water for agriculture during the dry season. The sculpture of the period - such as Shiva and Vishnu - is massive, formal, and imperious, reflecting the grandeur of the architecture. The rigid posture of the statuary contrasts with the rhythmic, luxuriant foliage and animated figures carved on contemporary architectural lintels.
Indravarman's son, Yasovarman I (r. 889-early 10th century), moved the capital and built the first city at Angkor toward the end of the ninth century. Like his father, he ordered the construction of a vast reservoir (5 by 1.5 miles) and a pyramidal temple-mountain (the Bakheng, with 5 terraces and 109 sanctuary towers). The statue of a female divinity from Bakheng typifies the austere, remote quality of the sculpture of the time.
Copyright © 2008 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC