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A RARE AND MASSIVE PAINTED POTTERY FIGURE OF A LOKAPALA TANG DYNASTY

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A RARE AND MASSIVE PAINTED POTTERY FIGURE OF A LOKAPALA TANG DYNASTY

Modeled in a vigorous stance trampling on several crouching demons, his right hand akimbo on his right hip thrust to one side, his left hand tensed and held out as if to grasp a weapon in his clenched fist, his grimacing features with large, bulging eyes gazing into the distance, flared nostrils and clenched jaw well detailed in pink, red, white and black, particularly his well-drawn beard and eyebrows, his tri-lobed helmet painted with green scrolls on a red ground, the brim edged in gilding, his armor with dark blue-centered breastplates, dragon-head epaulets and the upturned sleeves of his tunic and shirt well-detailed in gilding, black, green, red, white and dark blue, his floral-patterned shirt showing in folds from under his fringed tunic, his loose pantaloons tucked into his bright gilt-edged boots, molded with details of worked leather and straps
56 7/8in. (144cm.) high

Lot Essay

Although a number of comparable examples of this model exist, none seems to be quite as magnificent as this particular specimen. Usually one leg of these figures is raised slightly on the head of a bull or body of a demon, and bent at the knee. The present figure, however, stands with slightly splayed legs on a level footing. This gives to the whole figure a more dramatic contraposto sway than is usual. The finely undercut details to the face, the raised, knotted eyebrows, widely flaring nostrils and pinched mouth, together with the broad shoulders, tightly flexed muscular arms and the sweeping tail of the figure's robes on the reverse add an immense drama to what are usually rather static renditions

For examples illustrating the development of these figures, both sculptural and painted, in the Dunhuang Cave complex, see Zhongguo Shiku, Dunhuang Mogao Ku, Beijing, 1987, vols. 1-5. For early Tang examples of lokapala standing on muscular demons painted on the eastern wall of cave 380, one with blue breastplates, see op. cit., vol. 2, figs. 190-191; and for free-standing sculptural examples dated to the High Tang, more similar in pose and dramatic content, from the western walls of caves 45 and 113, see op. cit., vol. 3, figs. 127 and 143, respectively

The painted floral decoration on the back of the robes can be compared to that on a detail from a robe of a late Tang Buddhist figure from cave 196, op. cit., vol. 4, fig. 183. For three less dramatic, though comparable figures, see Cina a Venezia, Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1986, Catalogue, no. 88; one in the exhibition, Tang, Eskenazi, London, June-July, 1987, Catalogue, no. 27; and another sold in these rooms June 2, 1989, lot 133

The result of Oxford thermoluminescence test no. 666x57 is consistent with the dating of this lot

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