The sculpture conservation workshop of the National Museum of Cambodia – with the assistance of a French conservation and research team from the French School of Asian Studies (EFEO) – has finished assembling a portrait statue of King Jayavarman VII with his arms in salutation.

The French embassy in Phnom Penh announced this on February 19.

“The statue of King Jayavarman VII is whole again. In the early 1990s, the right arm raised in salutation was recognised by [historians] Oun Vorn and Michel Trane at Prasat Prey [northeast of Preah Khan Temple]. Recently, the arm has received renewed attention from Eric Bourdonneau at Angkor Conservation,” it said in a social media post.

“The main fragments of the body were discovered by [French architect] Henri Marchal northeast of Angkor Thom in 1924. Seven years later, Marchal found the head to the east of Angkor Thom, which then made it possible to identify the portrait of the king,” the post announced.

The arms of Jayavarman VII are hoisted back into place during the statue’s restoration. FRENCH EMBASSY

The statue was enshrined at the National Museum of Cambodia in 1934 and was restored by the museum and EFEO in 1999.

On January 28, the museum showcased the fragments of the left arm that were discovered by Marchal in 1924 and taken to the Angkor Conservation Museum in 1931.

French polymath Georges Groslier brought them to the National Museum and reassembled them in late 1934, but it was not until 1998 that a researcher at the museum noticed that they had been reassembled incorrectly, and they took it apart for reassembly. That work was completed in 1999. The right arm was discovered in 1990.

Renowned Khmer culture and history researcher Trane first hypothesised that the two pieces were the hands of the statue of King Jayavarman VII, but he did not have the opportunity to try to assemble them.

“His hypothesis was confirmed in 2019 by a French research team using 3D scanning technology. It showed that the broken sections overlapped almost perfectly,” said the museum. “Restoring these fragments commemorates and enhances the prestige of the Angkorian kings.”