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Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, first half of 12th century (Angkor Wat style)

Asia: Cambodia; Asia: Thailand, 1101-1150
46 x 25 in. (116.8 x 63.5 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Look closely at this sculpture. Do you see anything unusual? Beyond the absence of hands, legs and feet, what else is missing?

This sculpture represents the Buddhist deity Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Images of Avalokiteshvara can be identified by the presence of a miniature Buddha Amitabha in his hair; several such examples can be seen throughout the Asian galleries. Amitabha is clearly missing from this sculpture; however, close inspection shows that this Buddha was once carved into the figure’s tall chignon. The Amitabha figure was likely removed hundreds of years ago; it was not unusual for images to be altered during periods of religious or political turmoil in ancient Cambodia.

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