Royal Palace Phnom Penh Art

Royal Palace Phnom Penh art is found mainly throughout the famous Silver Pagoda where some of the murals are on display. Almost a third of the total murals, however, are tucked away in rooms used mainly as storage areas. The beautiful murals, once vibrant and extensive, are known to have been painted by a group of students under direction of the architect Oknha Tep Nimit Thneak and the artist Vichitre Chea. The Silver Pagoda was built in 1917 and later on, in the 30’s, the section of galleries was used temporarily as classrooms ad interim for local Buddhist monks.  

Royal Palace Art
Royal Palace Art

History behind the Royal Palace frescoes is interesting; originally they are based on the epic Sanskrit Ramayana from India; the Khmer version of the Ramayana is called the Reamker. The tales were first shaped around the Thai Ramakien (famous murals inside the Royal Palace in Bangkok). The Thai Ramakien is in turn connected to the many bas-reliefs incorporated at Angkor Wat. The 640-meter-long Royal Palace Phnom Penh art installation begins at the eastern entry gate and ties in actual painted images of both the Silver Pagoda and the Royal Palace.

The Reamker is considered a vital component of Cambodian culture adn the Cambodian people. The story can also be found in art form carved into the walls at Banteay Srei and Angkor Wat temples; the predecessor of the pagoda murals. The carvings are a must-see when taking tours of the temple complex, and considered some of the most important parts of the temples themselves by Cambodians. The Reamker is also interpreted in another important Royal Palace Phnom Penh art form, traditional dance, called Lkhaon, often performed for the king at the Throne Hall.

The Royal Palace frescoes that span three meters high bear irreparable damage; much of the lower portion of these art works are basically gone altogether despite the restoration efforts of a Polish artist team that conducted extensive work between 1985 and 1993. A lack of financing cut the project short but it is still attributed as the main reason the murals still exist today.

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