Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Historical period(s)
Angkor period, 1175-1225
Gray sandstone (lithic arkose)
H x W x D: 99.7 x 47.9 x 21.9 cm (39 1/4 x 18 7/8 x 8 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone

Buddhist sculpture

Angkor period (802 - 1431), Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva, Buddhism, Cambodia, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

Avalokiteshvara is the bodhisattva of compassion. His multiple arms serve to help all living beings equally with infinite generosity. At the center of his chest is the goddess Prajnaparamita, the embodiment of wisdom. Together in a single image, wisdom (the female element) and compassion (the male element) give rise to the thousands of miniature Buddhas that cover Avalokiteshvara's chest.

This sculpture dates to the era of the Khmer king Jayavarman VII (r.1181 -- 1218), who is famous for sponsoring the production of multiple temple-estates dedicated to the Buddha throughout his domain. In 1191, the king distributed this sculpture and twenty-three similar figures of Avalokiteshvara across his kingdom. He used such Buddhist imagery to reinforce his political power by associating his father with Avalokiteshvara and his mother with Prajnaparamita, in order to suggest that he himself was a buddha.

Published References
  • Dr. Hiram Woodward, Janet Douglas. The Jayabuddhamahanatha Images of Cambodia. vols. 52-53, 1994/95. p. 107, fig. 3.
  • Janet Douglas. Geological Examination of the Avalokitesvara S1987.910, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. vols. 52-53, 1994/1995. pp. 110-111.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
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