World Ceramic: What does it look like?

These two ferocious winged monsters are guardian figures commonly referred to as earth spirits. Popular beliefs of the period explain that these figures had the ability to keep evil spirits penned in one place and in this way protected the grave site where they were buried.

These intimidating figures blend a cat's body with the horns and hooves of a deer, a ferocious head, flaring wings, and flamelike projections. Each figure sits on a rock-shaped pedestal decorated with elaborate drip patterns in blue, amber, and white. One beast has an unglazed human face with enormous ears, while the other has a colorful cat face. Where pairs of these figures have survived, the head of the human-faced figure is always left unglazed, and its feline counterpart is completely glazed over. The unglazed human face would originally have been decorated with lifelike colors painted directly on the white clay. Because these colored pigments were not baked on during the firing process, they have faded with time. Even so, these figures convey a power and splendor that clearly reflect the imagination of the artists and their high degree of technical skill.


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