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Ridge Tile: Ogre (Gwimyeon) Mask
A crisply molded ogre face (called in Korean, gwimyeon) adorns the front of this roof tile fabricated in unglazed stoneware. Despite the ferocity of the beast’s bulging eyes; angry grimace revealing sharp, bared teeth; and a spiky mane, this demonic image was intended to depict a benevolent, protective force—scholars today believe that such fantastic creatures may represent dragons, whose element is water. Such tiles were originally attached—through the hole visible in the ogre’s forehead—to the roofs of important buildings in palaces and temple complexes to guard largely wooden structures against fires.
Korean,Unified Silla Period (668–918), Ridge Tile: Ogre (Gwimyeon) Mask.8th/9th century, Molded stoneware with natural ash glaze deposits, Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, Gift of Brooks McCormick Jr., 2004.116.