Fate of A Statue: The Case of the Duryodhana

23 Oct 2013 8:07 AM | Anonymous

Fate of A Statue: The Case of the Duryodhana by Dustin Roasa

October 20th, 2013 reset - +

ON A SWELTERING FRIDAY afternoon two years ago in Phnom Penh, Anne Lemaistre, the head of UNESCO’s office in Cambodia, received an unusually urgent phone call from Paris. On the line was Pierre Baptiste, Southeast Asia curator of the Guimet Museum, home to one of the largest collections of Cambodian antiquities in the world. “Have you seen what is on sale at Sotheby’s?” Baptiste asked, the excitement evident in his voice.

Lemaistre opened an email from Baptiste and gasped. On her screen was a strikingly beautiful and well-preserved Cambodian statue from the 10th Century. Sotheby’s had placed the piece on the cover of its catalogue for Asia Week, a high-profile auction event set to begin the following Monday in New York. The 500-pound sandstone sculpture, described in the catalogue as “among the great masterpieces of Khmer art,” depicted a Hindu deity, bare-chested and wearing a sly grin, with his knees bent at right angles, poised to leap into the air. “What is this?” Lemaistre exclaimed into the phone, her pulse quickening.

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