Pivoting Our View of a Sculpture

Research and collaboration have reconfigured a work from around the year 600, transforming its presence.

Shifting a statue’s torso less than 20 degrees may not seem a big deal, but, oh, the difference it has made in a portrayal of Krishna at age 8. Made around the year 600 in Phnom Da, southern Cambodia, the life-size figure has been on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art since its 1973 acquisition. It dates from the earliest phase of Khmer stone sculpture when artists began combining imported Indian styles with a predilection for large figures in the round and features that foreshadow those of later Angkor sculptures. The museum first displayed this masterpiece as a head and torso. Then, after a 1978-79 conservation, Krishna acquired legs reconstructed from fragments also found in Phnom Da. Facing forward, the figure stood before us, beautiful and benevolent, but somewhat bland.

Years of research and experimentation with scans, 3-D models and consultations with Cambodian counterparts determined that most of the leg fragments belonged to another Phnom Da Krishna housed in the National Museum of Cambodia. So the Cleveland Museum removed them and, because broken struts on the back of the figure and on the upper fragment of a stele fit perfectly, it attached the two. That combination required pivoting Krishna’s upper body 17.8 degrees to the left.

In full: https://www.wsj.com/articles/revealing-krishna-journey-to-cambodias-sacred-mountain-cleveland-museum-of-art-phnom-da-indra-mount-govardan-11639606697

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