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This bas-relief depicts the faces which can be seen on the towers of the Bayon temple at the Angkor site (XIIth-XIIIth centuries). It was sculpted from a block of sandstone, which is the same material that was used to build the Bayon temple.
This piece also exists in a smaller version.
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King Jayavarman VII conducted an intensive construction program during which countless new buildings were erected and others demolished all over the Khmer Empire, especially in the Angkor area. The mountain temple of Angkor Thom, the Bayon, symbolically represents the center of the universe and stands in the exact middle of the ancient city. Its complex and enigmatic towers consisting of four faces looking out towards the cardinal points are probably the most amazing expression of the King’s personality, who was obsessed with the desire for immortality.
Whether the face towers represent Lokesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion to whom the King identified himself, or Lord Buddha, it is usually admitted that the Bayon temple bears some features of Jayavarman VII. The King indeed liked to think of himself as the protector of his subjects’ welfare.