Reclining Vishnu: From Cambodia to France for Restoration and Exhibition

In the framework of an exemplary French-Cambodian cooperation, France will be welcoming the famous Reclining Vishnu.

Phnom Penh: A blessing ceremony was held on May 7 at the National Museum of Cambodia to mark the departure for France of the large bronze statue of the Reclining Vishnu along with 39 fragments. The ceremony took place in the presence of H.E. Dr. Phoeurng Sackona, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Mr. Fabrice Etienne, Chargé d’Affaires of the French Embassy in Cambodia, representatives of the National Museum of Cambodia, the National Museum of Asian Arts-Guimet, The French School of Asian Studies (EFEO), the National Centre for Research and Restoration in French Museums (C2RMF) and of The International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH). 

Discovered at the West Mebon temple in 1936 by French curator Maurice Glaize, this 11th-century sculpture is the largest bronze statue ever found on the Angkor site (originally over 5 metres long and 4.50 metres high). It is one of the treasures of the National Museum of Cambodia. An unequalled masterpiece of Khmer art, this reclining Vishnu captivates researchers and curators all over the world, not least because of its symbolism and particular shape, unprecedented for a Khmer bronze of this size.

Its departure for France is part of an active cooperation program to study and restore the Vishnu. The National Museum of Cambodia has formed a partnership with the National Museum of Asian Arts-Guimet, the EFEO and the C2RMF to carry out this operation. 

During its stay in France, the work will first undergo a complete scientific study at the C2RMF in Paris, before undergoing a major restoration program at the Arc’Antique laboratory in Nantes. This initiative has been made possible thanks to the support of ALIPH (International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas).

The Reclining Vishnu will then return to the National Museum of Asian Arts-Guimet in Paris, where it will be the centrepiece of an exceptional exhibition dedicated to Cambodian bronze art from April 30 to September 8, 2025. France is delighted to welcome this major work of Angkorian art, associated with the landmark Western Mebon temple, whose restoration, led by the APASARA Authority, is financed by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

The exhibition-event to be organized by the Musée Guimet in 2025 will bring together some 240 works. Highlighting the refinement of the Khmer heritage, it will be based on an exceptional loan of 126 bronze works from the National Museum of Cambodia, to which will be added some 60 objects from the Musée Guimet, including statues, objects of art and elements of architectural decoration, photographs, casts and graphic documents. It will also feature archaeological work carried out by the EFEO north of the former Royal Palace of Angkor Thom and on a newly-discovered copper-mining site. The exhibition is curated by Pierre Baptiste and Thierry Zéphir (Musée Guimet curators), David Bourgarit (C2RMF) and Brice Vincent (EFEO). 

After the Musée Guimet, the Reclining Vishnu will be presented in several cities in the USA before returning to Cambodia.

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