Reconstructing God: Style, Hydraulics, Political Power and Angkor's West Mebon Viṣṇu

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by Marnie Feneley

In December 1936, a villager was led by a dream to the ruins of the West Mebon shrine in Angkor where he found the remains of a bronze sculpture. This was the West Mebon Viṣṇu, the largest bronze remaining from pre-modern Southeast Asia, and a work of great artistic, historical and political significance. Prominently placed in an island-temple in the middle of the vast artificial reservoir, the West Mebon Viṣṇu sculpture was a key focus point of the Angkorian hydraulic network. Interpretations of the statue, its setting, date and role, have remained largely unchanged since the 1960s, until now. Integrating the latest archaeological and historical work on Angkor, extensive art historical analysis of the figure of Viṣṇu Anantaśāyin in Hindu-Buddhist art across the region, and a detailed digital reconstruction of the sculpture and its setting, Marnie Feneley brings new light to this important piece.

Framed with a useful update on the latest archaeological and historical insights into the history of the Angkor World Heritage Site, this new understanding of the West Mebon Viṣṇu sculpture reorients our understanding of religious and political change in Angkor in the 12th century. Fully illustrated in colour throughout, the book will be of interest to art historians and curators, historians of Southeast Asia, and anyone with an interest in the art and history of Angkor.

Marnie Feneley is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of New South Wales School of Art and Design, Australia.

Publication Year: 2023
368pp || 
235 x 185 mm
163 colour images, 47 b/w images
ISBN: 978-981-325-053-6