A painted pottery figure of a seated lokapala


The ferocious figure is finely modelled seated on an angular rock while squashing a demon beneath his right knee. He wears “cord and plaque” armour with twin breast plates, secured with a cord, and with a sash around his shoulders, knotted on the chest. His right arm is pressed on his right thigh, the better to suppress the demon, while his left arm is raised horizontally, slightly bent at the elbow. The head has highly expressive features, with bulging eyes, flared nostrils and the wide mouth slightly open, as if issuing a warning. He wears a leather helmet with side flaps flared on each side, and a small domed knop. The naked, bearded demon wears a miserable expression, with popping eyes and downturned mouth, beneath the hair standing on end, coming to a point. The pottery is of a fine-grained grey colour with areas of red and green pigment remaining.

No other examples of seated pottery lokapalas appear to have been published, but a slightly later gilt-bronze figure identified as Dongfang chiguo tianwang 東方持國天王 “Guardian Protector of the East”, dated to the 11th-12th century, modelled in a very similar pose, is in the Metropolitan Museum, accession number 2001.77.

A fragment of a splendid Tang dynasty painting found in Dunhuang, showing part of a figure tentatively identified as Dhritarashtra, the Guardian of the East, wearing similar armour and with left arm in a similar position to that of the present figure, but holding an arrow, is in the British Museum, accession number 1919,0101,0.69. 

Dimensions: Height: 30.3 cm, 12⅛ inches

Date: Tang dynasty (618-906), 8th century

Stock No. 1556

Price: On Request