Pair of Guardian Animals

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Pair of Guardian Animals

Japan, Kamakura period (1185-1333), circa 1250
Sculpture
Wood
.1) Mouth open: 20 1/4 x 11 x 19 1/2 in. (51.435 x 27.94 x 49.53 cm); .2) Mouth closed: 23 3/4 x 11 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (60.33 x 29.21 x 50.17 cm)
Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee (M.2008.56.1-.2)
Currently on public view:
Pavilion for Japanese Art, floor 3 MAP IT
Pavilion for Japanese Art, floor 3

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Curator Notes

Originally placed before a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple, pairs of guardian animals were thought to protect the surrounding areas from harm or evil spirits....
Originally placed before a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple, pairs of guardian animals were thought to protect the surrounding areas from harm or evil spirits. Always created in pairs, guardian animals would be positioned to flank an entrance. The open-mouth animal is based on a lion, and is saying the first sound of the Sanskrit alphabet, ah. While the other animal is based on a dog, with a closed mouth and horn, speaks the last sound of the Sanskrit alphabet, un; thus, all phenomena, the universe and everything within, are represented and by this pair of guardians. The sculptures were created circa 1250, during the artistic zenith of the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Works from this period are characterized by extreme realism and attention to muscular form. The bold stance, powerful musculature, and fierce expressions of this pair of animals embody Kamakura realism. Each animal's chest is emphasized, as well as its upright posture. The fur on the tails and the forelegs is partially stylized to suggest flames, and both the mane and the fur are beautifully modeled. The flame-like fur and the addition of the horn underline the mythical nature of each beast. This extraordinary pair of wood sculptures from the mid-thirteenth century has survived in exceptional condition (traces of original green pigment still cling to the inner surface on the tail of the lion), and will join another superb Kamakura-period sculpture, Bishamonten in LACMA's collection.
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