What's the term for statuary, usually paired, which flank entrances?

Ex: The Lion pedestals at the NYC Public library; Assyrian Ox-God statues built into gates of ancient cities.

My placeholder term is "sentinel statues," but I suspect there's an official one.

  • This question strongly reminded me of english.stackexchange.com/questions/173159/… but on closer examination they are a bit different. Commented May 6, 2015 at 1:26
  • 1
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 1:48
  • I think the marquee statue would be the first statue they intend for you to see in the museum. So in a natural history museum example, the marquee statue might be the big statue of a dinosaur in the rotunda. It's not the main exhibit, but it "sets the mood". The stairway statues are the first ones you actually see, but I don't think they're the marquee statues. They have more of a guardian purpose.
    – kirk
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 2:34
  • @DanBron the statue built into the gate wouldn't be a Caryatid because it isn't a isolate post-support. I hadn't considered their function as part of the building, though, only as decorations, so thank you.
    – kirk
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


They are generally referred to as guardian statues. One of the most popular types is guardian lions.

For example, Chinese guardian lions ("Foo Dogs") are well-known and it is mentioned that they share symbolism with Staffordshire dogs:

While Staffordshire dogs originated in 19th-century England, like foo dogs they were used as symbols of protection and status. Staffordshire dogs were often found flanking the fireplace in well-to-do British homes, and were strikingly similar in pose and scale — I can’t help but wonder if they were at all influenced by these ancient guardian statues of China.


The lion statues of the NYC Library are mentioned as guardian lions in the book Public Space by Stephen Carr:

The monumental neoclassic white marble building of the New York Public Library in mid-Manhattan, its forecourt flanked by two reclining "guardian lions" sculpted by Edward C. ...

enter image description here

They are referred to as gate guardians as well:

Statue of a pair of lions often founds in temples in Southeast Asia as the gate guardian. The Balinese winged lion often served as the guardian statue or as the pedestal of wooden column.

Wikipedia / Cultural depictions of lions

Dvarapala (Sanskrit) is a door or gate guardian often portrayed as warrior or fearsome asura giant, usually armed with a weapon, the most common is gadha mace.

enter image description here

Wikipedia / Dvarapala

Gate-guardian sculpture is mentioned in the book "What is stronger than a lion?: leonine image and metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East" by Brent A. Strawn:

enter image description here

  • @CaseyM: You're welcome. I also learnt more about them when searching.
    – ermanen
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 2:46
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    The heraldic term is Supporters, like the hippos on the arms of Ankh-Morpork Commented May 6, 2015 at 2:52

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