Mỹ Sơn Temple

Duy Xuyên, Quảng Nam, Vietnam

Bombed 1969

The Disappointed Tourist: Mỹ Sơn Temple, Ellen Harvey, 2023. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Mỹ Sơn is a complex of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples in central Vietnam. Over 70 brick temples were constructed between the 4th and the 14th century by the Kings of Champa and were dedicated to the Indian deity Shiva, locally known as Bhadreshvara. The temples fell into disuse in the 15th century after the Champa Kingdoms were conquered by the Vietnamese emperor Le Thanh Ton ( 1442 – 1497). The temples were rediscovered in 1898 by Camille Michel Paris, resulting in the excavation and restoration of the site by French archeologists. During the Vietnam war, Mỹ Sơn was used as a base by the People’s Army of Vietnam and as a result, a majority of its architecture was destroyed by US bombing during a single week of the in 1969. The surrounding area is still littered with land mines. In 1981, restoration works were carried out by a Polish team of archeologists. The painting is based on a 19th Century uncredited black-and-white photograph.

The painting is based on a black and white photograph taken by the École Française d’Extrême-Oriente of Shrine B3 which predates the Vietnam War, although I don’t know the exact date. This is one of the paintings that I left uncolored/unfinished because, when the project is exhibited, I always include some unfinished paintings to make visible the fact that this project can never be finished: there are always more lost sites to be painted.

Requested by Kenn L.