Head of a female deity
11th – 12 th century, Baphuon style
H. 20 cm or 7 ⅞ in
Very beautiful Khmer head made of sandstone, measuring 20 cm in height (or 7 ⅞ in), representing a female deity. Its style is representative of the refined art of Baphuon in Cambodia, between the 11th and 12th centuries. We particularly appreciate its sensitive modelling, the soft but expressive look and the great care taken to ensure the richness of the hairstyle.
This face is illuminated by an inner, discreet smile, and one is touched by the very soft expression that emerges from this youthful appearance. The proportions are very harmonious and the smooth carving of the small, slightly hollowed chin and the fine nose accentuates the human character of the sculpture. Only eyebrow arches, which are similar to a continuous metallic and sharp line – inherited from Bakheng style a century earlier – recall the traditional representations of the gods. The eyes lined with incisions extending far towards the temples are a characteristic feature of Baphuon style.
Particular attention must be paid to the treatment of hair, carved with great refinement. Characteristic of Baphuon style, the superb hair is underlined with a border all around and draws a pretty design on the temples. It consists of a sophisticated arrangement of braided hair strands mixing pearl pendants or flower buds. The hair is pulled up in a neat hemispherical bun and tied with a wide braid. The bun is surmounted by a blooming floret.
As is very often the case in Khmer art, it is very difficult, in the absence of the rest of the body, to identify more precisely the divinity that is represented. If we compare this piece with a head of similar size and similar style kept at the Guimet Museum in Paris (MG 18949), this female deity could be the goddess Śrī Lakṣmī, Viṣṇu’s wife.
Provenance: Private collection, France, since the 1960s.