Angkorian Founders and Bronze Casting Skills


First technical investigation of the West Mebon Viṣṇu

Vishnu West Mebon P Baptiste

Publication: BEFEO Vol. 104 (2018), pp. 303-342 | EFEO via JSTOR

Published: 2018

Author: CAST:ING

Pages: 39

Language : English

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Discovered in 1936 – 1937 and kept at the National Museum of Cambodia, the large (222 x123 cm) statue of the West Mebon Reclining Vishnu” is studied here from a technical point of view.

The study gives us many insights on the core, armatures, various alterations and restorations of the fascinating sculpture. The West Mebon Viṣṇu, conclude the authors, was modeled in wax in several pieces using different processes including direct and indirect lost-wax casting. Although cast in several parts, the statue demonstrates the mastery of very large castings, as exemplified by the whole torso having been cast in one go. The joining techniques seem to be mainly based on edge-to-edge assembly secured by secondary casting, although mechanical joining was brought to light as well. The West Mebon Viṣṇu also proved to be entirely gilded, with an exquisite polychromy of the face provided by a variety of inlays. The alloy composition matches well with what is known so far of 11th-century Khmer bronze statuary and may thus point to a centralized production area.’

Photo by P. Baptiste

Tags: bronze, foundries, Khmer arts, sculpture, polychromy

About the Author

Standing Buddha Nmc


CAST:ING (Copper Alloy Sculpture Techniques and history: an International iNterdisciplinary Group) is a project run since 2015 by an international team of conservators, scientists, curators, art historians, historians, archaeologists, archaeometallurgists, and craftspeople, who are studying bronze production of different eras and cultures, particularly in Cambodia.

Associated to the group are: Aurélia Azéma (Laboratoire de recherché des monuments historiques [LRMH]), Pierre Baptiste (Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet [MNAAG]), Jane Bassett (J. Paul Getty Museum), Francesca Bewer (Harvard Art Museums), Ann Boulton (Gilcrease Museum), David Bourgarit (Centre de recherché et de restoration des musées de France [C2RMF]), Manon Castelle (C2RMF), Laurence Garenne-Marot (Musée royal d’Afrique centrale), Huot Samnang (National Museum of Cambodia), Joachim Kreutner (Bayerisches Nationalmuseum), Elsa Lambert (C2RMF), Susan La Niece (British Museum), Jeff Maish (J. Paul Getty Museum), Mathilde Mechling (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 / Universiteit Leiden), Benoît Mille (C2RMF), Dominique Robcis (C2RMF), Donna Strahan (Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery), Annick Texier (LRMH), Brice Vincent (École française d’Extrême-Orient), Jeremy Warren (Independent scholar), Ittai Weinryb (Bard Graduate Center), Jean-Marie Welter (Independent scholar).


Photo: Standing Buddha bronze statue (H: 49 cm), 6-7th centuries, from Kompong Leng (Kompong Chhnang), National Museum of Cambodia