As one of the Guardians of the four cardinal directions, Virupaksa is the Guardian of the West and holds a serpent as his attribute.
Gilt bronze figures of this type and period bearing inlay of semi-precious stones are exceptionally rare. Similar examples are associated with the Densatil monastery as documented in the only existing photographs taken by Pietro Mele in 1949, cf. U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, illustration on p. 462.
Only a few other examples appear to remain. For a slightly smaller figure of Virupaksa, sold at Christie's London, 11 December 1973, lot 83, cf. von Schroeder, op. cit., no. 148E; another example in the collection of the Muse Guimet was exhibited at the Idemitsu Museum, Tokyo, 1996, cat. no. 49. Compare also a figure of Virudhaka, Guardian of the South, from the Nitta Collection, exhibited at the National Palace Museum Taibei, The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom, 1987, pl. 27, now in the collection of the museum, cf. Recently Acquired Gilt-Bronze Buddhist Images, 1996, no. 28.
The present example as well as the lokapala Virudhaka from the Nitta collection incorporate a lapis lazuli inset belt plaque carved with sinuous dragons. It may be compared to dragon motifs found on Yuan porcelain; compare for example a Longquan dish in the Percival David Foundation decorated with a dragon in relief with similar elongated snout and tufts of hair, in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, vol. 6, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, London, 1982, pl. 20. The same type of dragon is found on a textile embroidered as a central motif across the chest of a Virupaksa, also of the Yuan period, from the National Museum of Chinese History, Beijing, included in the exhibition China 5000 Years, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1998, cat. no. 84.
For a discussion of the casting technique incorporating an iron armature, see G. Bguin and F. Drilhon, 'Virupaksa, le gardien au regard torve,' Arts Asiatiques, XXXIX (1984), pp. 78-86, including four x-rays, figs. 8-11. Both the Guimet Virupaksa and the present example display square iron pins at the forehead and the lower garment for positioning the mold in casting.