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Celestial King

Unknown8th century AD

Museo d'Arte Orientale

Museo d'Arte Orientale

An imposing statue of Tianwang in a dominant pose, depicted in the act of subduing a luocha demon lying on a high base. The Heavenly King has his head turned to the right, his right hand on his hip and his left arm raised: the fist is drilled with a hole that originally held a weapon or an attribute. His straight right leg crushes the demon’s lower abdomen and his left knee is bent, with the foot trampling its forehead. The head of the statue is unglazed and was decorated with cold paint. The king has a threatening expression, with large bulging eyes, raised eyebrows, dilated nostrils, a long embossed moustache, a red mouth open in a snarling grimace and large bare ears. He has black hair in an elaborate style with neat, symmetrical locks: it is held at the front by a small ribbon and gathered in a high bun on the crown of the head, where it is kept in place and adorned by a band with a decorative arch on the front. The Tianwang is wearing armour that is very complicated in front, whereas the rear portion is smooth and marks from the mould joints can be seen. Various embossed and engraved elements can be distinguished: a v-shaped ruff; two breast plates with scales, divided by a cord with large unglazed buttons at either end; a girdle in two sections with an abdominal strip adorned with scales in the centre panel and a panel protecting the groin shaped and decorated with large plant-like scrolls; the side-pieces have scales. The arms of the armour are particularly elaborate: the shoulders are shaped like two-horned dragons with wide open jaws, large eyes, lobed ears, and long trunk-like noses turned upwards; from their mouths come the arms of the statue, protected by elbow guards with upturned tips. The forearms also seem to be encased in a clamshell protection. A long-sleeved garment can be seen beneath the armour, cut unevenly below the side-pieces: the longer rear tail hangs to the right and accentuates the dynamic posture of the statue. Below the knees, which seem to be protected by knee plates, the shin guards are in two parts, with a central strip fastened by two unglazed buttons, similar to those on the chest. The sides of the shin guards are dominated by a pair of oval-shaped scroll designs and other stylised decorations. The bottoms have fringed pleats above the pointed shoes. The demon below, lying on its back, has a massive pointed head with spiky hair; it has a threatening expression, huge, fleshy lips and small round eyes. Its body is like that of an infant and its limbs are armed with two claws, raised up as if flailing. The high base on which the whole composition stands is shaped like a box, with rounded corners, a rock-like appearance and two holes on each side. The glazing on the statue is mainly green, amber and various shades of cream, sometimes mixed and sometimes divided among the component parts and the decorations on the armour: the back and the tunic are ochre; the demon is the same colour, with a large green and cream smear on its torso and groin; the base is marbled in three colours.

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  • Title: Celestial King
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 8th century AD
  • Subjetcs: Funerary sculpture
  • Physical Dimensions: w45.7 x h101 cm
  • Origins: Shaanxi, Henan (?)
  • Dynasties: Tang
  • Provenance: Comune di Torino
  • Type: Sculptures
  • Rights: All Rights Reserved - MAO - Museo d'Arte Orientale, Turin
  • Medium: Grey earthenware, sancai underglaze, pigments on slip. Mold made

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