After 500 years, sheer chance reunites head and body of Hindu statue in Paris
Friday 19 May 2006
A wife of the Hindu god Shiva, decapitated in Cambodia in the 15th century, finally has her head back, after it was discovered 500 years later on the other side of the world.
A Paris museum dedicated to Asia, the Musée Guimet, is celebrating the implausible chain of events that reunited a divided masterpiece of ninth-century Cambodian art.
The headless body of a wife of the Hindu god of destruction and renewal was found by French archaeologists near the shattered temple of Bakong, amid the celebrated Angkor ruins, in 1935. The statue has been exhibited since 1938 at the Musée Guimet in the Place d'Iéna in Paris, which has the finest collection of ancient Khmer artefacts outside Cambodia.
Last autumn, the museum held an exhibition on Vietnamese art which paid tribute in its catalogue to a retired American diplomat, John Gunther Dean. The catalogue recounted Mr Dean's efforts, as ambassador to Cambodia in the early 1970s, to rescue ancient Khmer art from the ravages of the Khmer Rouge, which was determined to expunge all record of Cambodia's past.
To thank the museum, Mr Dean, now 80, offered a gift from his own collection of ancient Khmer artefacts. Last month, the gift arrived, the sculpted head of a woman found at the Bakong temple site in 1939.
"I asked him for a Khmer head because we only had headless statues but I didn't think for a moment about a possible match," said Pierre Baptiste, the museum's curator for south-east Asian art.
"I brought the head into our [Cambodian] hall looking for a place that it could be exhibited," said M. Baptiste. "I had a sudden notion the two pieces resembled each other but then thought, 'no, things never happen that way'.
"I put the head on the statue's shoulders. It shifted a few millimetres. I heard the little click that you get when two stones fit together and the head fell perfectly into place. It was as if it had put itself together. I still get goose-bumps thinking about it."
The reformed statue, which is 4ft 10in high, was beheaded in the temple when it was destroyed in the 15th century.
South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship
Undertaker dead hoax: WWE legend not 'found dead in home' as Facebook and Twitter reports
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness 'unqualified' to testify
Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper Andre Johnson severed his penis and jumped from LA building
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Big Bang Theory to get special Star Wars episode with help from Lucasfilm
- 3 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 4 Pharrell Williams 'Happy': British Muslims dance to song in video
- 5 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...
£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...