Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In real danger

A giant Reahoo monster on the Reamker frescoes at the Silver Pagoda in Phnom Penh
A perfect illustration of the damage caused to the lower half of the frescoes at the Silver Pagoda
The frescoes of the Silver Pagoda remain in dire straits. Weather and water infiltration damage, as well as harmful paint spraying have taken their toll on the 642 metres of beautiful murals that cover the interior of the pagoda compound walls. Much of the lower section on all of the three-metre high murals has been lost and the damage is irreparable, despite efforts from a Polish restoration team between 1985-1993 that has at least saved what remains today, though the project ran out of money and ended prematurely. Further restoration is necessary but funding remains the key. Depicting stories from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the classic Indian epic known as the Ramayana, the frescoes were painted in 1903 and 1904 by a team of forty students under the tutelage of Vichite Chea and the architect of the Silver Pagoda, Oknha Tep Nimit Mak. The stories, which were modeled on the Thai Ramakien murals at the royal palace in Bangkok, which in turn were influenced by the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat, start at the east gate and include murals of the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda itself. The story itself ends on a happy note when Rama and Sita are reunited, and differs from the original Indian epic.
Palace scenes abound on the murals at the Silver Pagoda
More Palace scenes from the Reamker story
Another example of the damage caused to the frescoes
Almost a third of the galleries containing the frescoes are used for temporary storage areas
The intricate murals were painted between 1903-1904
A battle to the death is part of the Reamker storyline
This royal palace scene remains untouched whilst all around is destruction
Careless paint spraying has ruined this section of the murals
Another beautiful scene partly scarred by the water and damp damage to the frescoes
Restoration work by a Polish team saved this section of the frescoes in the 1980s
A close-up of three courtesans shows the damage to the intricately-painted frescoes

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