Saturday, 21 December 2013

Koh Ker, Four Down, Five to Go?

Justine Drennan, 'Momentum gains to unite ancient Cambodian statues', Associated Press Saturday, December 21, 2013
[The article discusses] the latest progress in efforts to bring back together the nine figures that once formed a tableau in a tower of the 1,000-year-old Prasat Chen temple. The scene captured a famous duel in Hindu mythology in which the warrior Duryodhana is struck down by his cousin Bhima at the end of a bloody war of succession while seven attendants look on. Experts say that looters hacked the life-sized sandstone figures off their bases during the country's brutal civil war in the early 1970s. Some of the statues were apparently smuggled out of the country and eventually wound up in the hands of private collectors or in museums abroad, as did many statues from other temples that the Cambodian government now hopes to reclaim. 
Duryodhana was hacked off his feet and eventually ended up in the hands of a Belgian owner whose widow put it on sale in Sotheby's (valued at $2 million-$3 million) in 2011.  The Norton Simon collection acquired the Bhima statue about 30 years ago. Discussions are reportedly now under way between the Cambodian government and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, about the possibility of returning the statue. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art got the two hacked-off "attendants" in pieces and sent them back in June this year. One figure of an onlooker to the duel had remained in Cambodia,  but the remaining four are still missing. 
A 2012 dig to gather evidence for that case unearthed the seven pedestals of the onlookers with some of the feet still attached, which archaeologists pointed to as evidence of pillaging [...] Two of the pedestals matched statues then on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Met said the statues, called the "Kneeling Attendants," were given to the museum in pieces by different donors between 1987 and 1992. Evidence from the temple site convinced the museum's representatives that the statues had indeed been looted, and the Metropolitian in June returned the two figures, which joined a third statue that had remained in the country. [...] As for the four missing figures, experts and officials have failed to locate any records for one and have traced the other three to past auction catalogs but don't know their current owners. 
Well, obviously a case for Wikiloot. These are not small items, somebody somewhere has a statue in their hall or living room which a visitor could spot, where are the photos from the "auction catalogues" of the missing figures publicised? Why are the auctioneers who have been identified as having handled these objects not named and shamed?


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