Discovering Angkor – Rare Photo Exhibit at Le Musée Cernuschi in Paris

Discovering Angkor: Ta Som - East face of west entry pavilion, third enclosure. Photo-Luc Ionesco. © EFEO
Discovering Angkor: Ta Som – East face of west entry pavilion, third enclosure. Photo-Luc Ionesco. © EFEO

Discovering Angkor – A la découverte d’Angkor

Paris — Imagine the excitement of trekking through a tropical jungle and discovering a huge, intricately carved stone temple, a vestige of a mysterious civilization long since vanished from our world. That unbelievable scene happened hundreds of times in the 19th century as intrepid French explorers discovered the monuments of the mighty Khmer Empire in the Southeast Asian country of Cambodia.

The École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), an agency that has conducted extensive archaeological studies in Cambodia, has amassed a huge archive of information over the past 110 years. From September 10 until January 2, 2011 the Cernuschi Museum in Paris will host an exceptional collection of rare photos capturing the EFEO’s work at Angkor since 1907.

Angkor was the vibrant Khmer capitol for hundreds of years, but when the civilization collapsed in the 15th century the dense jungle slowly, and dramatically, reclaimed the city. Hundreds of years later, French explorer Henri Mouhot arrived and when his reports of a fabulous lost city built by an unknown civilization reached France they caused a sensation.

This exhibit, with 108 photos selected by EFEO library manager Isabelle Poujol, shows the temples of Angkor between 1860 and 1960 — before, during and after their release from the jungle’s grip.

The exhibit naturally shows work at the larger temples of Angkor Wat, the Bayon and Preah Khan, but also focuses on three other unique buildings:

Discovering Angkor: Banteay Srei, dvarapala, guardian of the false west front door, central sanctuary, photographer Luc Ionesco © EFEO.
Discovering Angkor: Banteay Srei, dvarapala, guardian of the false west front door, central sanctuary, photographer Luc Ionesco © EFEO.

Banteay Srei – A 10th century temple dedicated to Shiva that was only rediscovered in 1914. Banteay Srei was the first temple in the Angkor area where the technique of anastylosis was used, i.e. using the original architectural elements to the greatest extent possible in rebuilding the strucure.

The Baphuon – An 11th century Hindu “temple-mountain” dedicated to Shiva that is the focus of a French restoration project that began in 1943 and resulted in the creation of a huge stoneyard with an inventory of 300,000 blocks.

Neak Pean – This Buddhist temple, whose name means “entwined serpents”, is build on an artificial island that was originally in one of the vast reservoirs created by the Khmer.

In addition to photos, the Discovering Angkor exhibit includes key documents relating to the discoveries and a stereoscopic image viewer. A new documentary on Angkor by director Didier Fassio is screened free every morning at 11 AM in the Conference Room (1st floor) of the museum.

This exhibition is part of the Mois de la Photo in Paris.

Video

This French language video offers a look at many of the rare photos on display in the exhibit.

Musée Cernuschi – Des archéologues à Angkor from Paris Musees on Vimeo.

Discovering Angkor: Archaeologists and Photographic Archives from the EFEO

By Denise Heywood

The sight of ancient ruins emerging from the jungle has always captured the imagination. When recorded in early black and white photographs these images, swathed in mystery, are even more evocative and nowhere more so than in the jungles of Cambodia at Angkor.

The lost city, submerged in tropical forest after its demise in the 15th century, remained almost impenetrable until 1860 when the French explorer Henri Mouhot, one of a number of early visitors, captured its magic in drawings and written descriptions….

Museum Details

Isabelle Poujol, EFEO Library Director.

Gilles Béguin, Curator, Cernuschi Museum Director.

Cernuschi Museum

7 avenue Velasquez-75008 Paris Tel: 01 53 96 21 50
From 10:00 to 18:00, except Mondays and holidays

Admission prices at the exhibition

7 Euros TP – 5 euros TR1 – TR2 EUR 3.50. Age 13 and under free.

Exhibition Catalogue

256 pages / 148 illustrations, 29 euros

Click here to read this article in Italian at Cultor.org

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