The Goddess Uma

Historical period(s)
Angkor period, 10th century
H x W x D: 124.2 x 37.5 x 24.3 cm (48 7/8 x 14 3/4 x 9 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 26b: Power in Southeast Asia
Sculpture, Stone

Hindu sculpture

Angkor period (802 - 1431), Cambodia, Hinduism, Uma, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

Khmer artists depicted the Hindu goddess Uma with regal stability. Here, she stands facing fully forward, her body neither twisting nor bending. Her long skirt (sampot) creates a strong columnar base. At the same time, her bare chest, pinched waist, and broad hips emphasize her femininity and fertility. Although the artists left upper bodies bare--as was conventional in Khmer dress--they carved intricate designs on the headdress and belt. These patterns, including leaves and flowers, are inspired by nature.

Uma's heavy breasts, straight brow, diadem terminating in a fluid double bow at the back of the head, and the skirt's wide upper flap, suggest a date of circa 900-925 for the sculpture. In this period the Khmer king Yashovarman I built a pyramidal, mountain-shaped temple called Phnom Bakheng. Relief carvings of similar female figures can still be found on the temple walls. These images also supply important information that is missing in the sculpture--the arms. In the Bakheng reliefs, the goddesses have one arm bent at the elbow, the other extended down at the side with a lotus bud in hand. Uma's arms may have been in a similar position. The small protrusion on the side of Uma's proper left thigh therefore would have served as support for her left wrist.

Published References
  • Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia: Millennium of Glory. Exh. cat. Washington. .
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 31, pp. 68-69.
  • Emma C. Bunker, Douglas Latchford. Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art., 1st Edition. Chicago. pp. 124-5.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 170-171.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
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