Cambodia and Museé Guimet reunite Khmer statue

7th century sculpture of Harihari
7th century sculpture of Harihari

One of the powerful symbols of the gulf separating museums and source communities are the fragments of sculpture which populate so many galleries. It is the best interest of these museums and the source communities to cooperate when possible, which makes the news from Cambodia welcome.

This 7th-century Khmer head has been in the possession of the Museé Guimet for almost 130 years. But now the Art Newspaper reports the statue and the rest of the statue will be reunited:

The head, which has been in the Musée Guimet’s collection since 1889, will remain in Cambodia for the next five years, says the museum curator Thierry Zéphir. It will be reattached to the decapitated body of Harihara, which the National Museum of Cambodia acquired in 1944, after the museum’s conservation team—led by Bertrand Porte of the French School of Asian Studies—confirmed they were a match.

The head was discovered in the late 19th century in a ruined temple at Phnom Da by Etienne Aymonier, a French colonial administrator and the first archaeologist to survey the remains of the Khmer empire. The Lyon industrialist Emile Guimet acquired the fragment, along with other Cambodian artefacts shipped to France for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, for his ambitious new museum dedicated to the religions of the Far East.

The head of the Harihara statue, which represents the combined gods Vishnu and Shiva, will be on display to the public at the Cambodian national museum today.

  1. Hannah McGivern, French museum reunites head with decapitated Khmer statue (2016), http://theartnewspaper.com/news/conservation/french-museum-reunites-heads-with-decapitated-khmer-statue/ (last visited Jan 20, 2016).

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