The Eleventh Century Art of the Khleang and Baphuon
The turn of the eleventh century was a turbulent period of power struggles and brief reigns. The art of the time, nevertheless, is highly refined, as seen in the sensitive modeling, smooth patina, and idealized expression of Shiva. This style, known as Khleang, takes its name from two buildings, opposite the royal palace at Angkor, that were probably erected as reception rooms for important visitors.
The Buddhist monument also dates to the Khleang period. Called caitya (sanctuaries) because they resemble miniature temples, such monuments were placed at the four cardinal points to mark the boundaries of sacred precincts. The sculpted figures represent the Buddha in meditation and, proceeding clockwise, the Bodhisattva Vajrin; the goddess of perfect wisdom, Prajnaparamita; and Lokesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion.
The huge temple-mountain of the Baphuon, constructed by Udayadityavarman II (r. 1050-1066) at Angkor, gave its name to the artistic style of most eleventh-century sculpture. The Buddha seated on the coiled body of a naga (serpent) epitomizes the Baphuon style in its graceful, slender proportions, less monumental scale, sweetness of expression, and precise carving.
Copyright © 2008 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC