This stone figure represents a composite Brahmin god, Hari-Hara, and is a copy of a seventh-century stone statue in the Museacute Albert Sarraut in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Robert Allerton had the copy made from a plaster cast he purchased at the Museacute Guimet in Paris and later presented to the Chicago Art Institute. All four arms are mutilated as in the original Cambodian work, but the lllinois carver left the rough stone between the legs and corrected the broken ankles and feet, probably to give the sculpture additional strength.
The image of the Hari-Hara resulted from the fusing of two venerated gods into a single divine being in an effort to reconcile followers of different cults. The idea of a continuously enduring, dynamic Life force is conveyed in this deity: preservation and destruction are made one by merging the traits of Hara (the popular name for Vishnu, creator and maintainer of life) with that of Hari (which stands for Shiva as the decaying process in nature). According to tradition, the figure is simultaneously a perfect, sacred idol, a master yogi, and a portrait of a prince or king.
His countenance suggests an air of concentration and perpetual serenity. The high cylindrical headdress is divided vertically down the center to indicate Shiva to the left (for the spectator looking at the figure), and Vishnu to the right. Its decorative pattern symbolizes Shiva's matted hair ritualistically spiraling in left-to-right ringlets, while the plain crown bordered by a band of flowers is part of Vishnu's usual costume. At the center of the forehead is the curved mark (urna), the "third eye of spiritual wisdom." The mustache, eyebrows, distended earlobes, and thin, clinging short sarong draped over the strong, nearly nude body are rendered in simple lines. Based on attributes shown in ancient times, the four missing hands might have held items such as the conch shell, sundisk, wheel, club, mace, battle-ax, spear, or trident.