Donation of an artefact

2011 Dec 20

The donation ceremony held on 15 December at the Cambodian National Museum in Phnom Penh, at which István Zelnik, chairman of the Hungarian Indochina Company and founder of the Southeast Asian Gold Museum, presented a gilt silver plate with an Old Khmer inscription that Jayavarman VII, generally regarded as the greatest ruler of Cambodia, had donated to the Banteay Chhmar shrine founded by his grandmother in 1199, attracted a great deal of interest both from Cambodia and around the world. This unique work of art is invaluable to art historians, epigraphists and historians, as there are hardly any inscribed precious metal objects in existence from the golden age of the Angkor Empire. At the donation ceremony, Oun Phalline, the director of the National Museum at Phnom Penh, Anne Lemaistre, representative of UNESCO in Cambodia, Hab Touch, the minister of the Cambodian government responsible for cultural heritage and general Lim Sokharaksmey, senior official of the Cambodian Ministry of the Interior responsible for the protection of national cultural heritage expressed their appreciation of the noble gesture and emphasised the diplomatic and cultural significance of the donation. Hab Touch noted that very few collectors are willing to donate such a unique object of such inestimable historic value, and that it is indeed of such high material value upon recognising its cultural and historical significance. The inscribed gilt silver object is particularly precious for Cambodia because experts had been unaware of its existence before. The Cambodian director of UNESCO, Anne Lemaistre noted that the donation was an extraordinary event of the protection of international cultural heritage, an endeavour to which Hungary has made a very important contribution through István Zelnik. The gilded silver platter of Jayavarman VII was on display at the Southeast Asian Gold Museum in Budapest between 22 September and 10 December. The unique object was displayed for representatives of the Cambodian government, prime minister Sok An, the Cambodian minister for culture and tourism and the heads of institutions, and ambassadors from 27 countries, including the Director of the Guimet Museum in Paris, at the 18th plenary session of ICC, the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor, on 13 December.