Statue of « Devi »

Photo provided by the National Museum of Cambodia
  • Cambodianess
  • April 8, 2021 2:17 PM

PHNOM PENH--The National Museum of Cambodia in collaboration with the French School of Asian Studies will organize the first virtual exhibition on April 13 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the museum. During the exhibition period, some sculptures and their histories are to be displayed digitally. With the approval from the National Museum of Cambodia and in contribution to the promotion of the value of Khmer cultural heritage, Cambodianess is pleased to share the history of the statue of Devi. 

Serving as the French resident (administrator) in Sambor from 1890 to 1893 and in Kratie from 1894 to 1898, Adhémard Leclère loved Cambodia and travelled right across the country driven by an insatiable curiosity, writing numerous works on the Cambodian customs, traditions, laws and culture. Retracing the steps of Etienne Aymonier, he explored the Mekong River basin upstream of Kratie and Sambor, where he noticed numerous pre-Angkorian ruins on its shores and the string of islands and islets that emerged from its bed.

It is on Koh Krieng island that he noticed a statue locally known as Srei Krup Leak, that is, “the woman with all perfections.” Placed on a pile of bricks under a tree, she was revered as a fecundity Neak Ta. Leclère brought the statue back to the resident’s home in Kratie, after which it was taken to Saigon, where art collections were being built up. While there, feet and forearms were attached in a rather haphazard fashion.

Brought back in 1905 to become part of the brand-new Khmer Museum in Phnom Penh, the added parts were removed. Finally, along with all the pieces of the Khmer Museum, the goddess was taken to the National Museum when it opened in 1920. Her sophisticated hairstyle consists of braids with a bun on top - a Shaiva jaṭāmukuṭa - and locks of hair coming down on each side of the head. Her chest naked, a sarong held by a belt adorned with jewels hugs her hips and legs and, at the bottom, flares out, pleated. With her generous figure, we have here the image of a mature woman with all beauty’s charms.

Text and pictures provided by the National Museum of Cambodia

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