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206. Lokapalas

China, Tang dynasty 618 - 907
Height: 68.8 cm & 69.4 cm
TL tested Oxford, UK

Provenance: Provenance: JMD Collection, The Netherlands, 2015
With Vanderven Oriental Art, 1999.

These figures are tomb guardians, also known as ‘Lokapala’. They are modelled in the extravagant high-tang style, dressed in full body armour, elaborately executed with dragon-mouth sleeves, with traces of the original bright coloured with pigments. On their heads are ornate caps with high-tailed phoenixes. Each crushes a rather sulky looking evil spirit under their feet.
The tombs of Tang elite were often furnished with such fierce figures. These guardians were placed near the entrance of, as well as in, the burial chamber to protect the deceased and the treasures from evil spirits. They derive from the Buddhist Lokapāla, and have typical Middle Eastern facial features, such as a moustache and big round eyes. These elements were considered the perfect scary combination to frighten off evil spirits and thus protect the deceased.

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