Door Guardian (Dvarapala)

Date: ca. 4th century

Culture: Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara)

Medium: Stucco

Dimensions: H. 18 in. (45.7 cm); W. 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.132


Buddhist stucco sculpture dating from about the third to the fifth century A.D. from the area of ancient Gandhara, in what is today the northwest region of Pakistan and parts of eastern Afghanistan, is not uncommon. Most of this usually fragmentary material has been revered within the remains of various collapsed Buddhist monuments. To judge from the vast amount that has survived, the prosperous Buddhist communities employed a sizable workforce of artists. Much of this material is of fine quality and features standardized iconography.

On occasion, by virtue of particularly fine modeling and unusual subject matter, one encounters an outstanding example, such as this sculpture, which must be attributed to an artist whose refined aesthetic vision was matched by technical proficiency. The volumes of the body have been modeled with considerable skill and the forms manipulated into a visually convincing naturalistic pose with subtle twists of the body. The warrior has an animated expression and his costume has been described with great clarity.

The seated male figure, not easily identified, wears scale armor and high boots, with a bow across his chest. He might represent an anonymous warrior, but it is tempting to elevate him from the ranks to a more important position. Perhaps our figure is an unorthodox representation of Panchika, the semidivine ruler of the yakshas who personifies the power to ensure wealth and frequently appears in Gandharan art seated and holding a weapon. As with most Gandharan sculpture, this image clearly reveals a debt to the stylistic idioms of the classical world.