The Tenth Century Art of Koh Ker and Banteay Srei
Jayavarman IV, the uncle of the two previous kings and a great feudal landowner, claimed the throne in 928 and retained his own city - Koh Ker, some fifty miles north of Angkor - as his capital. There he built several enormous temples, one of which housed a colossal statue of Shiva that survives only in fragments. One hand conveys the scale of this sculpture. This trend toward monumentality is reflected in the statue of Brahma, god of creation, whose four heads allow him to oversee the four cardinal directions. The art of Koh Ker also reveals a new sense of movement, seen in the dancing female divinity and in the remarkable fragmentary sculpture of two interlocked wrestlers.
Rajendravarman II (r. 944-968) returned the capital to Angkor. At the end of that reign, a Brahman priest dedicated to Shiva the small temple of Banteay Srei, one of the few Khmer structures not built by a king. Situated about sixteen miles north of Angkor, this temple is often called the jewel of Khmer architecture. The sculpture of Banteay Srei is represented here by two pediments, four guardian figures that once defended its inner sanctuary, the image of Shiva and Uma originally placed within one of the temple shrines, and a miniature sanctuary that decorated its roof. The precise carving retains its crispness because of the hard pink sandstone used in the temple complex. Banteay Srei, rediscovered in ruins in 1914, was rebuilt by French archaeologists in the 1930s. The photograph shows part of the temple as it was reconstructed. The two pediments here are from sanctuaries that were too damaged to be restored; along with other works of sculpture, they were removed to museums for safekeeping.
Copyright © 2008 National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC