Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Friends

My favorite apsaras at Angkor Wat.

Of the thousands of devatas and apsaras adorning the walls of Angkor Wat, these two are, in my opinion, the least stilted, the most animate, the most 'real' there. The technical rendering is not particularly extraordinary for Angkor Wat, but I see more than the usual template poses in this pair. Natural posture, distinctively different faces and bodies, a seemingly authentic lopsided smile... even in the eyes, standing close, one leaning, head cocked, holding each other in an unusually intimate manner. I see in these two girls real people, and from the looks of it, friends, probably living and working in the temple together 900 years ago.

It would seem others have noticed their special quality as well. They are one of the most hand-worn bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat. Innumerable people over the ages have felt compelled to touch them as they passed, running their hand across the relief, polishing the stone to a slick shine.

Located on the first level interior, west wall, south half, they are not an especially easy pair to photograph, on a shaded wall stuck behind a pillar with less than a meter of clearance.

Would you say that these are apsaras or devatas? 

Further reading:

The Many Faces of Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat Devata Inventory – Ver. 03-17-2010

Is Angkor Wat a 12th-century Facebook?

Book: Khmer Costumes & Ornaments: After the Devata of Angkor Wat (Amazon)

1 comment:

  1. A good post, and well-observed. And do you notice the way the breast of the apsara on the right is treated, the one raising her arm over her head? The sculptor has noted how anatomy really works. This is a truly notable work. (And to me, they look like a couple of bar-girls being chummy - I'll probably be ridden out of town for saying that.)