The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Seated in Royal Ease, Angkor period (802–1431), late 10th–early 11th century
Copper alloy, silver inlay; H. 22 3/4 in. (57.7 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 1992 (1992.336)
The Buddhist embodiment of infinite compassion, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, is rarely represented in the rajalilasana seated posture more associated with rulers and Hindu gods. Monumental metal sculpture represents the apogee of Khmer artistic production, and this image is one of few large-scale images from the Angkorian period that has survived intact. In Khmer royal cult practices, a close identification between a ruler and his chosen deity was customary; thus this image, so unusually seated in a kinglike posture, may be intended to serve as both a representation of the bodhisattva and a portrait of the ruler-patron for whom it was commissioned. Without the representation of the Amitabha Buddha, the spiritual mentor of Avalokiteshvara, in its elaborately coiffured chignon, this realistic figure could be mistaken for a secular portrait.