Head of Śiva

Circa 10th century, Bakheng style
H. 16 cm or 6 ¼ in



Very fine Khmer head depicting the Hindu god Śiva, made of sandstone and measuring 16 cm (or 6 ¼ in) in height, it is characteristic of the Bakheng style that marked the statuary of Cambodia during the 10th century. The metallic aspect of the modelling and the impressive precision of the carving give a frank and proud expression to this fascinating face.

This smooth face is appealing by its geometric stylization. One is struck by the strong symmetry of the hair that draw a pointed line on the temples, of the beard that shapes a perfect bracket on the chin, or of the fine mustache, undulating on the full lips. A typical Bakheng style element is this unique brow bone, drawn in a single continuous and straight line, almost sharp. In addition of both eyes wide open and underlined by two incised lines, one also can see the third frontal eye, classic attribute of Śiva. The god is also recognizable by his crescent moon, clearly visible here in his cylindrical ascetic’s bun (jaṭāmukuṭa). This headdress, very abstract, is made of loops of vertical braids cascading from the top where is represented a lotus with four petals. A unique jewel is to be seen here: Śiva is wearing an elegant and rich tiara (kirīṭa) decorated with florets and small stems of foliage. It is held at the back by a nice stylized and graphic knot.

This head, whose aesthetic bears witness to a great formal perfection, is remarkable for the extraordinary polish of the face, contrasting superbly with the richness of the headdress’ details. Its fixed gaze gives this hypnotic character of which one never tires…


Provenance: Private collection, France, since the 1960 – 1970s.