Pre-Angkor Period
Pre-Angkor Sculpture
The Beginning of the Angkor Period
The Tenth Century Art of Koh Ker and Banteay Srei
The Eleventh Century Art of the Khleang and Baphuon
Bronze Casting in Cambodia
Sculpture in the Age of Suryavarman II
Jayavarman VII and the Art of the Bayon
The Post-Angkor Period

Pre-Angkor Sculpture

Most early Khmer sculpture was created to be placed in or around temples. The Hindu and Buddhist sculpture here reflects the coexistence of the two religions in Cambodia. Buddhism was founded in the sixth century b.c. by the Indian prince Siddhartha of the Gautama clan, who renounced the material world in his search for a means to free human beings from Hinduism's endless cycle of reincarnation. Through study, asceticism, and meditation, he attained the blissful state of enlightenment and became known as the Buddha (enlightened one). The religion reached Cambodia early in the first millennium, and by the sixth century, sculptors were creating images of the Buddha as well as Bodhisattva, beings who had achieved enlightenment but refrained from entering nirvana in order to help others reach that blessed state. Although Buddhism was widespread, Hinduism was the religion espoused by most Khmer rulers until the late twelfth century.

The earliest works in this room, such as the stone images of Buddha, reflect the continued influence of Indian art in their soft modeling of the body and slightly hip-swayed posture. Later in the seventh century, a more distinctly Khmer style asserted itself, characterized by a more frontal, symmetrical stance, as in the Harihara; a gently smiling expression, as in the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara; and, possibly, a tendency toward portraiture, as in the adjacent Devi, Consort of Shiva, whose features are so particularized that she may portray an actual queen in the guise of a goddess.

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