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Garuda Finial

Cambodia (Khmer, Angkor Vat style),
12th/13th century

Height: 31.1 cm
Width: 22.2 cm
Depth: 12 cm

A finely cast and pierced gilt copper figure of Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu, facing forwards with his feathered wings outstretched.

His small face has a pronounced beak, bulging cheeks and deep-set eyes. From the back of his head huge plumes of feathers emerge, forming a spectacular headdress with a flaming crown to the top. Flanking his body are further masses of feathers which form large powerful wings. The complex design depicts overlapping boteh-shaped feathers of differing sizes, which contrast with his polished plain torso. The indentations within each feather suggest originally they could have been inset with precious stones. From each wing a forward thrusting hand appears, its palm vertically positioned as if in vitarkamudra (the mudra of discussion). To the reverse of the finial are finely chased scrolling patterns to the wings, with further cross hatching to the torso with small feathers above.

This small gilt-copper figure was probably a finial or the mount of a palanquin and represents Garuda, a demigod with the head and wings of a bird and the body, legs and arms of a man. He is the emblem of strength and swiftness, king of the birds and symbol of the wind and the sun. The piece has been cast using the lost wax process and traces of gold indicate that it was mercury gilded. There are numerous bas-reliefs at Angkor Vat which showed chariots and palanquins adorned with finials in the shape of Garudas.(1)

For similar examples, see Emma C. Bunker and Douglas Latchford, Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art, 2004, pp. 328-331.


Spink and Son, London, 1960s


1. Emma C. Bunker and Douglas Latchford, Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art, 2004, p. 328.

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