Standing Shiva(?), Angkor period, 11th century
Cambodia (Angkor, Siem Reap Province)
Gilt–copper alloy, silver inlay; H. 41.6 in. (105.7 cm)
Partial Gift of The Honorable Walter Annenberg, 1988 (1988.355)
This figure has all the authority and presence of a religious icon. The most complete extant gilded-bronze image from Angkor, it belongs to a small group of metal sculptures of Hindu deities associated with royal cult practices that have been discovered in Khmer territories in Cambodia and northeastern Thailand. Although complete, the figure defies ready identification; the gesturing hands do not conform to any standard iconographic mudras or hold key attributes. Nonetheless, it may reasonably be identified as the Hindu deity Shiva in anthropomorphic form, an unusual but not unknown representation in Khmer art. The naturalism that the artist sought to impart to this regal figure, bejeweled and dressed in an elaborately detailed waistcloth (sambot), raises the possibility that it may have served a dual purpose, representing primarily a cult icon for worship in a royal sanctuary and also acting as an ancestor image of a deceased ruler. Several inscriptions from this period refer to royal temples dedicated to the memory of the patron's deceased parents, and the statue may have been created for such a context.