Title:Lokapala Guardian King, one of a pairArtist:Artist UnknownDate:late 7th-early 8th centuryCreation Place:ChinaCredit Line:Gift of Michele and David DeweyAccession Number:2003.242.1.1
These magnificent Buddhist lokapalas or guardian kings originally served as tomb guardians in an aristocratic T'ang burial. Wearing elaborate headdresses and armor, and with a fierce expression on their faces, each king tramples underfoot a demon clinging desperately to a rockwork base. Their clenched hands perhaps once held weapons. These tomb figures are particularly masterful in their combination of the arts of sculpture and painting. The superbly modeled face of each king reveals finely painted moustaches, eyebrows and other details. The exotic suits of armor featuring decorative breast plates, animal head ornaments, and elaborate helmets were once completely polychromed with red, pink, green, blue, white, and black pigments as well as gold. Painted tomb ceramics such as these probably preceded the famous three-color (san ts'ai) glazed wares that were introduced around 700 a.d. This pair is exceptional for its size, detailed modeling, and amount of original colored pigments that remain on the surface after thirteen centuries of burial.