Kneeling Monster 24.8cm
Suggested Attribution: Northern Qi (550 – 577 ce) Size: 24.8cm (9.8 x 7-1/2″). This kneeling, fanged primate creature of nephrite jade has flaming shoulders, horns, fangs, and clawed hands. The scorch darkened places on the front and back appear to be from candle flames placed by circumambulatory devotees in a place of worship. And the beautifully irregular circular patterns, characteristic of nephrite, are interestingly formed around the breast and on the belly. They are microscopic natural fissures made unusually more visible and apparent, most likely from many years of unintentional scorching from candles closely placed. Monster figures such as this entered the Chinese art repertoire in the 6th C. AD or earlier as guardians in shrines pagodas and relics of the Buddha.
Please scroll down to the video bar with icons to start, pause, and enlarge to full screen size a 360 deg. rotational viewing of the incredibly powerful sculpture.
Creatures with comparably forms found in No. Qi temple and cave sites are known as “Kneeling Monsters, Guardian Demons, Kneeling Winged Monster” etc. These were sculpted in deep relief from the very stone of the caves. They were done on a much larger architectonic scale than our jade and did not permit circumnavigation and placement of candles by devotees as, from scorch marks, was likely the case with this unique 3-D jade piece. The comparable style stone sculptures can be seen in the following institutions: the Freer; Nelson Adkins; Cleveland; ROM; Harvard-Sackler.
“This mythical, composite animal and the similar one on the opposite side of the doorway are guardian-demons whose repellent ugliness was believed to avert evil. They were created as pillar bases, or architectural supports, inside the Buddhist cave-temple of the northern Chinese site known as Xiangtangshan, which straddles the border of Hebei and Henan provinces. The presence of these guardians beneath a row of Buddha images in Cave 7 at Xiangtangshan signaled their role as protectors of Buddhist Law. Cave 7 originally contained at least twenty-four similar sculptures, but they proved so appealing to Japanese and Western collectors that most of them were removed in the early twentieth century for sale. Many museums bought pairs of the guardian figures. Charles Lang Freer purchased only one (in 1916), but the Freer Gallery of Art purchased an additional two in the 1950s, and the gallery was later given two more in the 1970s. Each sculpture is slightly different.” Freer-Sachler at the Smithsonian;
North Cave at Northern Xiangtangshan:
If links above don’t work, cut & paste in browser: http://www.asia.si.edu/explore/china/xiangtangshan/northcavegal.a
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