On The Square

Virapaksa, Guardian of the West

By Benjamin Fisher

Mar 12,2015 | 14:00 EDT

According to Buddhist tradition, The Four Guardian Kings are gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the universe. Virapaksa is the Guardian of the West and “The One with Broad Perception.” In addition to observing the world and protecting the people within it, he also encourages others to find safety in Buddhism.

This gilt bronze figure of Virapaksa, or Guang Mu Tian Wang is one of the highlights of the Asian Works of Art sale at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers on March 23-24. The figure, possibly dating to the Ming dynasty, is one of the Four Guardian Kings, or lokapala.

This particular figure is depicted standing in full armor with flowing scarves around the shoulders, wearing a peaked crown and high chignon, his right hand holding a serpent, or dragon, and the other holding a precious pearl, while his face bears a ferocious expression. Of special note is the depth of the casting in his armor.

While Chinese Buddhistic bronzes have been collected for centuries, with some being passed down through generations and others currently being unearthed, there has been a recent resurgence of interest. In addition to this magnificent figure, the March Asian Works of Art auction includes over 50 additional examples of Buddhistic bronzes from China and Southeast Asia.