Lagawe region, Luzon, Philippines
Seated guardian figure
19th-early 20th century
47.6 (h) x 10.2 (w) x 15.4 (d) cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Across Southeast Asia, from ancient to modern times, ancestors have been depicted seated with arms across the knees and legs slightly parted to expose genitalia. The elegant pose is often accentuated by minimal and often severe features—simple straight torsos with large heads marked by hollow cheeks, long noses and receding mouth or chin. In Vietnam the squatting figures often hold their head between their hands. The seated figures may be created to stand alone, or in pairs, or as the central image of an ancestral altar.
The antiquity of the pose is illustrated by the enigmatic figures on some of the oldest known art created in the Southeast Asian region. Squatting anthropomorphic images adorn bronzes from the ancient Dian culture of southern China, and Dong Son civilisation of northern Vietnam.