Top of a Bell in the Form of a Demon King or Guardian
Eastern Javanese period
ca. second half of the 12th–early 13th century
H. 4 15/16 in. (12.5 cm)
Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Gift of Samuel Eilenberg, 1987
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 247
This finial from a hanging bell takes the form of an unusually lively and finely modeled rakshasa—a demon king or guardian. He is depicted as a short, potbellied grimacing creature with fangs and large bulbous eyes and a serpent emerging from each armpit. A curved broad chopper is held in his right hand, and his left is placed behind the neck of a hapless victim with bound hands who is seated in front of him. The hair is pulled back and arranged in a loop to allow for the attachment of a suspension chain.
Ferocious creatures of this sort were popular participants in Javanese mythology and literature and appear often in the art of the Eastern Javanese period. Their association with bells is not uncommon.