THE VIRTUAL MUSEUM OF KHMER ART
THE STYLE

 

 

       
 

For sixty years the Cambodian art history is connected with the works of George Coedes, Pierre Dupont and Philippe Stern who studied the Phnom Da style fundamentally. The oldest stone sculptures date to the sixth century and they were found in cave temples. Depicting both Hindu and Buddhist divinities they were made of single blocks of fine-grained sandstone. Based on the early publications the first Phnom Da style (Phnom Da A) includes the art of Funan (Dupont 1955, p. 25 ff.) Time went by with many new findings. But the confusing chronology for early Cambodian sculptures was not modified or corrected until today.

Phnom Da’s site is about 15 miles from Angkor Borei, today hillcrowned by an impressive 11th century Angkorian-era brick and sandstone prasat (tower), the oldest historical site in Cambodia and the place which gave the name to the earliest Khmer art style (514-600 A.C.). Rudravarman, king of Funan, reigned from 514 until 545 and probably the first capital was Angkor Borei. Thus the Phnom Da style is regarded as the first real Khmer style. In Pre Khmer time Phom Da was a site of the Gods of Hindu cult. The style derives from the Indian Gupta style, a Brahmanical (early Hindu) art style. In 1996 widespread researches started in the Angkor Borei region on the Cambodian side of the Mekong (Lower Mekong Archeological Project).

Since the end of the last century excavations were made at the lower Mekong Delta in today's Viet Nam. Here a larger number of religious sculptures from the sixth to the seventh century were found. Neither the stylistic elements nor the dates of origin fit to the Phnom Da style. They are signs of an art style that must be regarded as the earliest Khmer art style.

Most western scholars use the term “Pre Angkor art” to classify the sculptures from the sixth to the 10th century (Phnom Da, Sambor Prei Kuk, Prei Kmeng, Kompong Preah, Prasat Andet, Kulen). This classification was made before the art of Funan was known. So it stands to reason to establish an autonomous Funan style to describe the statues from the 6th to the 7th century found in the Funan kingdom.

 

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