Thursday, 12 December 2013

Norton Simon is Next - Where are the Rest?

Duryodhana defeats Bhima
The Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa case "has placed a renewed focus on Cambodian sculptures from the Koh Ker region, a once-thriving Khmer metropolis, in American museum collections", write Tom Mashberg and Ralph Blumental ('Disputed Statue to Be Returned to Cambodia', New York Times December 12, 2013). This follows the return of two ("Kneeling Attendants") statues from the Southeast Asia gallery of the Metropolitan Museum earlier this year from the same temple setting as the statue in the Sotheby’s dispute.
With the return of those three statues, Cambodia’s quest will now turn to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., where a twin statue to the Duryodhana, known as the Bhima, has been in the collection since 1980. Mr. Tani said officials from the museum plan to visit Cambodia early next year to explore the Bhima’s original site and hold talks about its possible return.
It seems a lot of people are losing a lot of money here, none of the settlements so far involves compensation. Of course the looters, smugglers and dealers have each gone laughing to the bank, leaving the collector to pick up the bill for their incautiousness.

Readers following this story may recall it being highlighted that there were originally a number of other  statues in this one group outside one of the entrances to the Koh Ker temple. The life-size statues depict a scene from the Hindu epic the Mahabarata. The warriors Duryodhana and Bhima face off in battle, armed with maces and wearing elaborate ornaments on their heads and arms. Each of the warriors is accompanied by several followers, who watch the combat. Two of these spectators were in the Metropolitan Museum, the others are still missing. Where are they? Raiding a couple of dealers might provide the answer (we may find the statues were smashed for transport and different bits went to different places). Only then will we have a chance to see this group reunited.

According to Chandrashekhara ('Battle Royal of Koh Ker, now come the spectators!', Sand Prints, August 20, 2012), there is:
[...] evidence that the sculpture at the Prasat Thom temple actually consisted of a group of 12 statues. The two statues at Metropolitan Museum of Art, the statue of Dryodhana, brought to US for auction by Sotheby’s and the statue of other wrestler Bhima, displayed at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif. USA, are all part of this 12 statue grouping. This grouping was broken up, plundered or looted when Cambodia was destabilized by civil war. This last piece of information is simply just astonishing. I can not even imagine the kind of grand spectacle this sculpture must have been when it was safe and intact. It does not require much imagination to realize that the remaining statues would be of other characters present during this episode from Hindu classic Mahabharata. If we ever find these remaining statues, I am quite sure that two of these would be the remaining Pandava brothers, Yudhishtira and Arjuna, one of their wife ‘Droupadi’ and one of the most important character of them all, the real hero of Mahabharata, Lord Krishna.
but although the mythology suggests there should have been 12 figures, there in fact seem to have only been nine:

'Cambodia Vs. Sotheby's In A Battle Over Antiquities', NPR October 23, 2012
"Behind the Prasat Chen temple at Koh Ker, Cambodian archaeologist Phin Samnang descends into a small pit and pulls away a plastic tarpaulin. He points to a group of stone blocks. "This is the site of the statue that is now in the auction house in America," he says. "Two pedestals were found here. And there were seven more around them".
Vignette: Duryodhana the Kaurava prince defeats Bhima

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.