The large animal sculptures in full relief which, in most Khmer temples, welcome arrivals along pathways between the various enclosures, or near stairs at the entrance of edifices, constitute one of the great achievements of sculptors in ancient Cambodia. The animals’ typology varies according to the place they occupy in the temple.
The lion is often depicted, despite not existing in Cambodia. It generally appears on top of stair walls as a guardian. The sculptors liked to portray it in various attitudes : sitting, standing and, more rarely, walking or even up on its hind legs in a threatening attitude.
This lion’s head has extremely stylised lines, answering above all to the demands that his role as guardian impose on him : his bulging eyes scrutinise arrivals ; his maw is half open, ready to bite, in a terrifying grin revealing sharp teeth and fangs. Traces of erosion, with deep grooves visible on the head, confirm that the lion was placed outside a temple.
Private Collection, Gand (acquired at the beginning of the 1970s)
Private Collection (acquired from the latter)
This work is registered on the International Art and Antique Loss Register, London, number S00077308.