Head of Garuḍa
Circa 13th century, Bayon style
In accordance with the traditional iconography, Garuḍa is represented in the form of a semi-anthropomorphic raptor, with a bird’s head and a man’s body, here unfortunately missing. On this piece, he is easily recognizable by its eagle beak, but also bears all the stylistic characteristics of the faces of Khmer statuary: the hair appear on the temples and the beard shapes a very slight bracket on the chin. His well-preserved right ear is adorned with a heavy ear pendant directly carved in the stone. Another traditional jewel finely executed here is the rich tiara (kirīṭa): a frieze of florets occupies the central part, then comes a fine row of pearls while a series of small upright lotus petals overcomes the whole. A stylized knot holds it at the back. The hairstyle is made of braided strands and the mythical being is here wearing a conical bun-cover with a decoration of florets.
This piece is exceptionally expressive, due to the bulging eyes and frowning eyebrows. This angry look evokes the legendary victory of the fabulous bird over the nāga, his half-brothers, with whom he is often associated on the reliefs of the Khmer temples. Garuḍa also occupies a leading role in Hindu iconography because of its solar symbolism.
Provenance: Private collection, France, since the 1970s.