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An image of Guardian Lion by
Alternate image of Guardian Lion by


Guardian Lion
Place of origin
Cultural origin
Koh Ker style
circa 1000 CE
Media category
Materials used
beige sandstone

94.0 x 44.2 x 56.0 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by Mr F. Storch, R.M and D.M. Adair, T.R.W. Allen, Karl Berkeley, Bruce Bockman, Madeleine Baulken, J.S. Capon, Graham M. Cole, S.M. Gazal, Bruce C. Hudson, Daryl Isles, J.G. Jagelman, N. Jeffreson, Michael Magnus, D.A.M. McCathie, Rosalind O'Connor, L.H. Pockley, E.G. Sternberg, Robert M. White and Ken Yondale 1987
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Throughout the golden age of the Angkor period, the kings built huge cities and temple complexes symbolic of their power and divinity. One of these capitals was created in 921 by King Jayavarman IV at Koh Ker, about 65km from Angkor. This standing guardian lion has come from there. Such lions were placed on terraces and stairways to guard the central pyramidal structure that represented Mount Meru, the residence of the gods at the centre of the Hindu world. Lions where not native to Cambodia and the Khmer sculptors devised their own fanciful interpretations. The characteristic full, frontal pose and upright stance lend the figure a composed regal air, while the elaborately carved demonic head and patterned chest shows the Javanese influence so important in Khmer culture.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.314.

Bibliography (4)

Liz Bennett, The Australian, 'Lion the pride of Asian collection', pg. 5, Surry Hills, 02 Sep 1987, 5 (illus.).

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'South-East Asian Art', pg. 83-96, Sydney, 1990, 85 (illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003, 314 (colour illus.).

Jacqueline Menzies, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian', pg. 72-93, Sydney, 1988, 90, 93 (illus.).

Exhibition history (1)

The connoisseur and the philanthropist: 30 years of the Sternberg Collection of Chinese Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 31 Jan 2014–27 Apr 2014