The Measured Art: A Proportional Analysis of Early Khmer Sculpture

by Nancy H. Dowling

A proposed new periodization for pre-Angkorean sculptures.

Dowling cover 2011

Type: hardback

Publisher: White Lotus Press, Bangkok

Published: 2011

Author: Nancy H. Dowling

Pages: 159

ISBN: 978-974-480-171-5

Language : English

ADB Library Catalog ID: KHART-DOW

Focusing on 40 stunning artworks from the National Museum of Cambodia Early Khmer collection and from Musée Guimet in Paris, the author, who studied Khmer statuary in situ in the 1950s and later on was inspired by "a chance encounter in 1997 with two Southeast Asian art historians at the National Gallery of Washington", USA, compares width and height measurements (constructional system) used in Khmer art with the canon of Indian sculptural art.

Challenging the chronological framework established by George Coedes in 1944, and the conventional classification of early Khmer art in five geographically-defined categories -- Phnom Da, Sambor, Prei Kmeng, Prasat Andet and Kompong Preah --, the author offers "a new chronology relying on stylistic analysis [...] for periods spanning approximately 200 years:

  1. Early to mid-seventh century.
  2. Mid- to late seventh century.
  3. Early to mid-eighth century.
  4. Mid- to third quarter of the eighth century.
  5. Third-quarter to late eighth century.
  6. Late eighth to early ninth century.

Quoting Ulrich von Schroeder's work [Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka, Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong, 1990], the author notes that several Angkor Borei-style images "are imports or copies from South India or Sri Lanka," while pointing out that several Khmer art images, in particular at Wat Romlok, "represent a synthesis of artistic traditions from North and South India or Sri Lanka."

The magnificent Durga image of Koh Krieng (Kratie), Guimet Museum

Note: some may contest as phallo-centric the measurement spot of Meḍhra (मेढ्र, phallus or male genital organ in Sanskrit) for the genitalia area, including in the case of female statues.

Tags: pre-Angkorean, sculpture, Khmer art, chronology, statues, statuary, Sri Lanka, North India, South India

About the Author

Nancy dowling

Nancy H. Dowling

Dr. Nancy Dowling is a Southeast Asia Art consultant and a retired professor of South and Southeast Asian Art at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

In 1995 she became a member of a multi-disciplinary team of University of Hawaii and East-West Center scholars, who conducted archaeological fieldwork in Cambodia in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. Later on, she started her own consultancy business, assisting museums and collectors in authenticating Southeast Asian sculpture (www.dowling, the link was no longer active in 2023).