It looks like a sure score: Guardians 2, Demons 0. The Demon on the right screams; the Demon on the left squeaks, trying to protect his gaudy uniform. Their opponents, the Guardians, are simply bigger and fiercer, obviously more practiced at all this.

In still another case of might and right teaming up to rout the enemy, the two eighth-century AD Chinese tomb guardians, acquired last year by the Princeton Art Museum, don’t hesitate to show their mettle. Or their long and scary talons and array of horns — curving, pointed, twisted. In position to dispatch any demon spirits that might threaten the dignitary with whom they were originally entombed, they clutch snakes, whose time is clearly limited.

"Guardians of the Tomb: Spirit Beasts in Tang Dynasty China" are on display on the main floor of the Art Museum, Princeton University. Their inherent ferocity is magnified by large-scale photographs mounted nearby on dark blue walls, and scholarly text tells the story of a long tradition, a now-vanished culture.

China: A vast land, an ancient civilization, whose myriad beliefs and customs over the long ages of history is only suggested by its geographical sweep, climatic variety, and numerous dynasties over the millennia between about 2100 to 1600 BC and 1911 AD. During that virtually unimaginable stretch of time, a belief in the concept of life after death prompted practices that led to the creation of tomb guardians like those now on view.

In early China, the death of a dignitary could signal the immolation of other humans and animals so their remains could be interred with the deceased. This gave way eventually to surrogate protectors: "tomb guardians," singly or in pairs, placed near the tomb entrance to protect the deceased from evil spirits.

Taking centuries to evolve, and sometimes disappearing altogether, early tomb guardians were made of wood, bronze, or other materials; by the sixth century AD, they were usually ceramic, with a variety of finishes. In a pair of guardians, one figure usually has a human face, more or less, while its companion has a lion-animal face. Both are designed to strike fear into the heart of a demon spirit.

Although each is just a bit over two feet tall, the museum’s newest tomb guardians pack a visual wallop. In a fitting reflection of the times, the human-faced beast stands with one taloned foot atop a screaming deer-demon — shades of Princeton township, where deer are also demonized — and grasps a snake in each hand. (Could tomb guardians offer an old-fashioned alternative to today’s net-and-bolt approach to "deer management"?)

The lion-faced beast guardian pounces on a squealing green-spotted, winged boar-demon, and raises his taloned right hand while clutching a snake in the other. With a single scrolled wing on the right side, next to a pink, shell-like ear, goatish horns and hoofs, besides its undoubted overall green cast, this demon is kind of cute, a pre-Sendak Wild Thing.

The lion beast’s features are surrounded by a series of stripes representing its mane, and two pronged horns over its eyes frame a third horn centered behind them. The twisted horns of the human-faced beast rise high behind three curving horns on its forehead. On both figures’ forearms and ankles, painted lines simulate fur. Although decorated with silver, gold, and paint, "GQ" potential they emphatically are not.

Cautioning that "so much is speculative," Cary Y. Liu, Princeton’s associate curator of Asian art, says the style of "beast guardians" can suggest the region they are from — as is the case with the two now being featured, thought to have been recovered near the Tang dynasty capital city of Xian. Pairs of tomb guardians, like the newest ones, are harder to come by than single figures, he says. In its downstairs Asian galleries, the museum displays what seems at a glance to be another human-and-beast-faced pair. However, both figures actually have "human" faces; it is their dissimilarity that suggests a mixed pair.

They are positioned next to a large vitrine populated with a number of tomb figurines: beast and warrior guardians, civil and military officials, musicians and animals. The Tang ruling elite reportedly favored extravagant burials, often filling their tombs with gold and silver ware, silk products, jewelry, and such figurines. Because of their role as sentinels and protectors, pairs of ferocious beast guardians and warrior guardians were among the most important.

By the late eighth century, beast guardian sculptures were rarely included in burials. During the Liao dynasty (907-1125) in northern China, images that resembled Tang tomb guardians were painted on wooden coffins, thereby continuing the tradition in two dimensions. A priceless panel from a Liao burial box has been moved from its place in the Asian galleries to round out the new display.

Although it is a small exhibition, this show is a significant one. It has already attracted the attention of Lillian ("Lilly") Schloss, a tomb guardian specialist and collector, who lives in Manhattan and has ties to Princeton University. Among those eager to see Princeton’s new spirit beasts, she may be the only one who saw and admired them before the university purchased them from a New York dealer.

Few tomb guardian aficionados know, or care, more about these beasts than Schloss, who for years with her late husband, Ezekiel, shared their Manhattan home with about 20 of them. Though some have been sold or given away, about 10 still live with her, Schloss says. The mother of a Princeton alumna (Simone Schloss, class of ’79), she’s looking forward to meeting the new guardians in town — possibly for the second time.

Schloss, born in 1922 into a devout Roman Catholic family, describes her Latvian-born husband as "secular Jewish." Married in 1948, they had met in 1942 at the weekly newspaper, France Amerique, where she was a bilingual secretary — and later a long-time French teacher — and he was a political cartoonist for publications that included the New York Times, the American Mercury, and the New Republic; he also illustrated and edited children’s books.

The couple visited Paris in the early 1950s, and her sighting of the gargoyles at Notre Dame marked the beginning of what Lilly describes as her "attraction to mythical animals." Regretting that the gargoyles weren’t more readily visible, she grew interested in Chinese tomb guardians, which she found "so imaginative, and they have a purpose: to protect the deceased from evil spirits."

"I warmed my husband to the notion of collecting tomb guardians," she remembers, and their collection of Chinese ceramic sculpture that began in the ’50s also included Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) towers and figures from the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) — "small, armored equestrians that all looked like Buddha," she says. "We spent millions on this collection."

From three inches to nearly three feet high, some in pairs and some singles, the Schlosses’ tomb guardians, which represented four dynasties, were bought from other art collectors, auctions, and dealers. They were always on view in the couple’s living and dining rooms. "We didn’t want to sell," she says; "we just wanted to collect." All were ceramic: some unglazed, others with "straw glaze" or "sancai," a three-color glaze.

Schloss is proud to say her husband wrote the book on tomb guardians. Multi-lingual, he had learned to speak English from the radio, reading, and conversation. In 1972 when a representative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered an exhibition of their collection — for $40,000 — Ezekiel decided, in effect, to do it himself. "Ancient Chinese Ceramic Sculpture," from the Han to the Tang, appeared in 1977 from Castle Publishing, of Stamford, Connecticut. Copies sold for $250 apiece at that time, although one recently sold at auction for $1,000. Ezekiel Schloss died in 1987.

Part or all of the Schloss collection has been shown at such area sites as the China Institute, Columbia University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Vassar, Hofstra, and SUNY New Paltz, as well as in California and Florida venues. Along with the Met and Christie’s, Yale University has purchased from the collection, and Princeton University bought a two-headed Sui dynasty (581-618) chimera or imaginary monster made up of grotesquely disparate parts. Last year Schloss gave a pair of Han equestrian figures to Princeton in her daughter’s name.

Whether or not the Princeton art museum’s new tomb guardians on the block turn out to be old acquaintances to "Lilly" Schloss, she welcomes the chance to visit. That’s the neighborly thing for all of us to do: stop by and say hello — even though we’ll find them hard at work.

Guardians of the Tomb: Spirit Beasts of Tang Dynasty China, Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788. Exhibition on view to August 31. Free gallery talk by Yang Lu, assistant professor, Department of East Asian Studies, Friday, March 8, 12:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 10, 3 p.m.

#h#Art in Town#/h#

Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. "Conversation with Color," an exhibit of paintings by Trenton artist and Chapin art instructor Heather Pool. "Painting is all about being able to go further, not about defending what is already known," says Pool. Open by appointment during school hours. To March 15.

Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4192. In the dining room, Deborah Paglione, watercolors, photographs, and hand-painted prints. Show may be viewed daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To March 13.

Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street, 609-924-0103. "Reflections of Lent," an exhibit of painting by Kevin Patrick Kelly from a year-long project in which he documented daily readings from the Gospel. The paintings were created between Easter Monday, 1999, and East Sunday, 2000. There are 387 paintings with accompanying texts from scripture. "My spiritual and artistic life find union in what is both contemporary and eternal," says Kelly. On view to April 1.

Numina Gallery, Princeton High School, Moore Street, 609-806-4280, ext. 3170. "Photographic Memoirs: The Public Schools of Princeton," an exhibition curated by Liz Lien, featuring photographs of teachers and students in the Princeton Regional School System from 1883 to 1948. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; and by appointment from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100. Paintings by Marc Malberg whose interest in Jewish history is reflected in many of his works. The Princeton resident is an associate clinical professor in orthopedic surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Gallery is open Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Saturdays. To March 20.

Williams Gallery, 6 Olden Lane, 609-921-1142. "An International Flavor," computer art, etchings, and mixed media works on paper presented by artists from Australia, Netherlands, Japan, and the United States. By appointment only. To March 9.

#h#Campus Arts#/h#

Art Museum, Princeton University, 609-258-3788. "New German Photography" features 15 works by such artists as Dieter Appelt, Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, and Thomas Struth; to March 24. "Anxious Omniscience: Surveillance in Contemporary Cultural Practice," to April 1. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection every Saturday at 2 p.m.

Also "Klinger to Kollwitz: German Art in the Age of Expressionism," an exhibit of prints and drawings that comprises an overview of late 19th and early 20th century German art, addressing the variety of innovative and avant-garde styles that transformed the German artistic landscape between 1871 and 1933. Other artists include Kandinsky, Bunter, Kirchner, Heckel, and Schmidt-Rottluff; to June 9. Also "Guardians of the Tomb: Spirit Beasts in Tang Dynasty China;" to August 31.

Firestone Library, Milberg Gallery, Princeton University, 609-258-3184. "Not for Myself Alone: A Celebration of Jewish-American Writers," the debut show for the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection of Jewish-American Writers that ranges from the early 19th century to the present day and includes Yiddish-language writers as well as writers in English. A two-volume catalog accompanies the exhibition. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 21.

The exhibit includes manuscripts, such as a draft of a poem by Stanley Kunitz, letters by Hannah Arendt, Nathanael West, Clifford Odets, Lionel Trilling and Susan Sontag, and photographic portraits of the writers.

Princeton Theological Seminary, Erdman Hall Gallery, 20 Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Meeting Stone," an exhibition of sculpture by Caroline Fenn. "Carving reveals what is hidden, in stone, in the sculptor, and finally in the viewers who make of it what they will," says the artist who has studied at Smith College, Yale, and Union Theological Seminary. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 8 p.m. To April 12.

Raritan Valley College Art Gallery, North Branch, 908-218-8876. "Presti-Digitation," an invitational group show of digital art curated by Allen Cosgrove and Keith Adams. Exhibiting artists include Hank Grebe, Arnie Levin, Annette Weintraub, Isaac Kerlow, and Dan MacCormack. Gallery hours are Monday 3 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, noon to 3 p.m.; Wednesday, 1 to 8 p.m., and Thursday, noon to 3 p.m. To March 14.

Rider University Art Gallery, Student Center, Route 206, Lawrenceville, 609-895-5589. "Material Life: The Painting and Sculpture of Michael Frechette" whose work, says curator James Dickinson, "is notable for its stark images of industrial and other worn and commonplace landscapes, and for the intriguing way he depicts animals, especially birds. Gallery hours at Monday to Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m. To March 3.

#h#Art in the Workplace#/h#

Johnson & Johnson, Education and Conference Center, 410 Geore Street, New Brunswick, 732-524-6957. "The Fabric of Jazz: A Tribute to the Genius of American Music" by Lauren Camp, fabric artist. Her original art quilts include tributes to Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman. By appointment. To April 20.

#h#Area Galleries#/h#

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511. "Photographs of New Jersey: `Images of the New Jersey Shore’ by Robert Borsuk and `Essential Places’ by DF Connors." Gallery hours are Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. To March 3.

Montgomery Center for the Arts, 1860 House, 124 Montgomery Road, 609-921-3272. "Focus In," two photography projects featuring works by students in Trenton’s After School Program; to March 1. Also, recent works by members of the Princeton Photography Club; to March 20. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Morpeth Gallery, 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-333-9393. Solo show by Helen Bayley featuring richly metaphorical figurative works, landscapes, and still lifes. Bayley teaches at College of New Jersey and at Artworks in Trenton. Artist’s gallery talk is Saturday, February 23, at 3 p.m. Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 9.

Printmaking Council of New Jersey, 440 River Road, North Branch Station, 908-725-2110. "Love and Sex," an international juried group show, on view to March 23. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m.

#h#Art In Trenton#/h#

Extension Gallery, 60 Ward Avenue, Mercerville, 609-890-7777. "Color Me Beautiful," a show of sculpture, drawings, and paintings by Autin Wright. The Trenton artist is the technical supervisor in the patina, paint, and preservation department of the Johnson Atelier. Gallery hours are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To February 28.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen," to April 14; "Jacob Landau: A Memorial" to May 5; "9-11 NJ: Response and Reflection," March 11 to May 12; "Women’s Works: Fine Art from the Museum’s Collection," March 22 to May 12; "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the Collection" to August 18; "American Indians as Artists: The Beginnings of the State Museum’s Ethnographic Collection," to September 15. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.

On extended view: "New Jersey’s Native Americans: The Archaeological Record"; "Delaware Indians of New Jersey"; "The Sisler Collection of North American Mammals"; "Of Rock and Fire"; "Neptune’s Architects"; "The Modernists"; "New Jersey Ceramics, Silver, Glass and Iron."

In the State Museum’s Cafe Gallery: Still life paintings by Colette Sexton. Proceeds benefit museum acquisitions and publications. On view to March 10.

#h#Art by the River#/h#

Atelier Gallery, 108 Harrison Street, Frenchtown, 908-996-9992. "Spontaneous Forms," an exhibit featuring abstract artists Eleanor Burnette and Jules Schaeffer. Both are experimental, multi-media artist influenced by significant figures in abstract expressionism. Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 11.

Coryell Gallery and Lambertville Historical Society, 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-0804. Lambertville Historical Society’s 22nd annual juried art exhibition, "Lambertville and the Surrounding Area." Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 17.

Gratz Gallery, 30 West Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-4300. Jan Lipes, a solo exhibition of landscapes. Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. To March 10.

Tin Man Alley, 12 West Mechanic Street, New Hope, 215-862-1110. "Bull’s Eye," a group show of work by six emerging artists: Dave Cooper, Jim Houser, Scott Lenhardt, Jeff Soto, Jonathan Weiner, and Patrick Williams. Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To March 31.

#h#Area Museums#/h#

Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, 215-340-9800. "Roy C. Nuse: Figures and Landscapes," an exhibition of works by the influential Bucks County artist and teacher (1885 to 1975) who trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied with Daniel Garber. Nuse and his wife, artist Ellen Guthrie, moved to Bucks County; Nuse taught at the Pennsylvania Academy for 29 years; to May 12. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.

Also "Stylish Hats: 200 Years of Sartorial Sculpture," a multitude of high-style creations that reflect the changing fashions of designer hats from 1780 to 1970; to April 14. In the Children’s Gallery, "Perspectives in Art," on view to February 28.

Zimmerli Art Museum, George and Hamilton streets, New Brunswick, 732-932-7237. "The Baltics: Nonconformist and Modernist Art During the Soviet Era," the first major survey of modernist art produced in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during the post-World War II Soviet period. The show features 150 works from the Zimmerli’s Dodge Collection produced in reaction to communist repression. To March 17. Also "The Victor Weeps: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh of Afghan Refugees, 1996-98;" to March 31. "St. Petersburg, 1921," to March 10. "Efim Ladyzhensky," to July 31.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Admission $3 adults; under 18 free; museum is open free to the public on the first Sunday of every month. Spotlight tours every Sunday at 2 and 3 p.m.

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