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Door guardian (dvarapala)

16th century-17th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Titles
    A temple guardian
    Place where the work was made
    Kerala India
    16th century-17th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    wooden wall panel, carving
    95.2 x 42.0 x 18.0 cm; 100.5 cm with stand
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased 1994
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The tradition of building and carving in wood has always been popular in Kerala. It has also retained its creative vitality for a long period as is clear from this lively and pleasing figure of a 'dvarapala' or doorkeeper. Generally, doorkeepers are more solemn imposing figures who strike more reposeful postures. But in the south they are sometimes shown as dancing, as is suggested by the posture and gestures of this guardian.

    Despite the fact that he is enmeshed in twisting and interlocking jewelleries of all kinds and swirling scarves and tassels, his powerful form is not obscured nor his vigour diminished. He wraps his plump left leg around his club, the toes resting on the hood of a cobra. His right arm swings across his chest and the bent left arm is held up. The gestures of both hands are exquisitely graceful, and his face with bulging eyes and open mouth is expressive.

    Pratapaditya Pal, 'Dancing to the flute - Music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW, 1997. pg. 116.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 2 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

    • George Michell, Living Wood: Sculptural Traditions of Southern India, 'Carvings in Kerala Temples', pg. 89-112, India, 1992, 89 (colour illus.), 175 (illus.). cat.no. 76. The colour illus. on page 89 is a detail of this work.

    • Pratapaditya Pal and Pratapaditya Pal, Dancing to the flute: music and dance in Indian art, Sydney, 1997, 116 (colour illus.). cat.no. 64 In this publication this object is titled 'A temple guardian'. See 'Further Information' for text.

    • Jane Somerville, Look, 'A bit of a puzzle', pg. 33-35, Sydney, Mar 2007, 37 (colour illus.).

  • Provenance

    The provenance of this work is under review and records will be updated as new details become available. The Gallery welcomes any information. Contact provenance@ag.nsw.gov.au

    Spink and Son Ltd., 1992, England, published as with Spink and Son Ltd, London, in George Michell (ed), Living Wood: Sculptural traditions of Southern India, Marg Publications and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1992, pp 89, 175

    Spink and Son Ltd., 1994, England, purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, October 1994.