Carved wood, lacquered, with mirror inlay
h. 88 cm., w. 31.3 cm., d. 45.5 cm.
Current Location - Northern Illinois University
Gift of Konrad and Sarah Bekker, 1987
The Bilu is a large seated figure in human form with the face of an ogre. With legs tucked underneath and the right leg raised slightly off the ground, he sits upright and leaning slightly forward, head tilted slightly upward. Hands are brought together in front of the chest in an attitude of reverence. There is an indentation, perhaps for inserting something between the thumbs. The figure wears an elaborate costume carved in relief, lacquered, gilded and inlayed. The long sleeve jacket has a fish scale or lotus petal pattern in molded lacquer or thayo. There are three flares on each shoulder and four flares around them. A band crossing over the chest and in back is worn over the jacket and is carved and decorated with thayo and inlayed both in front and in back. The collar also is carved in wood and decorated with thayo and inlay. Bands on the upper arms close to the elbows are made of metal, which is red lacquered, gilded, and decorated with thayo bands. A sash-like strip runs across the lower back from behind each elbow and is carved wood, which has been lacquered and gilded. At the wrists molded thayo bands form either bracelet or elaborate cuffs. From the waist down over the gap between the legs and onto the base runs a three-tiered panel, inlayed and with thayo bands. In back of figure, cloth extends beyond hem of jacket to ground or base, covering foot and backside of figure. The headdress worn is fairly flat close to the head with a waisted column rising out of the center on top-of, which a closed fanlike shape extends upwards, and backwards with smaller petal shaped or leaf shaped green inlayed decorative motifs on the front and sides. Mirror inlay and thayo bands accentuate the face of the ogre. The eyes are painted in black lacquer over a carved indentation. A line runs from the eye across the side of the face curling up in a small loop and then curling down, each eye having the same design. Above the eyes, green inlaid floral or furlike extensions make the eyes more menacing. A silver drop-shaped silver mirror inlay is set between the eyes at the forehead. The top of the naturalistic nose is wrinkled in a snarl-like attitude. Two large fangs and the green inlay band and floral or fur like motif around the mouth emphasize the grimacing mouth. The chin also has designs of the floral or fur like motif which also appear along the side of the face behind the ears, the latter are also inlayed. The Adam’s apple is defined on the neck. On the back of the head black lacquer indicates hair. The base is carved from the same piece of wood as the figure. It is simply red lacquered. The base is a raised strip on which the front legs rest on and an arched strip supports the feet and buttocks. It appears that the base would have been carved continuously but was cut out along the sides. Thus underneath the figure would have been hollow within the base and partially up into the inside of the figure. On the inside another section appears to be carved out near the back and another piece of wood inserted, being smaller than the wide hole on the inside. This figure is one of a pair, see BC 87.1.4. It appears that this image is of higher rank, perhaps a general. This is apparent in the special headdress, which may be used to identify him, the elaborateness of his costume, which is also more ornate than BC 87.1.4, and the extensive use of inlay and thayo designs on the costume, the stance and perhaps the taller height. The majority of inlay is small circular pieces in silver, red and green. Around the neck there are pieces of red and silver, which are slightly larger circles, which are not flat but are raised slightly. These shapes also are placed in the center points of motifs but are used sparingly. There is diamond shaped pieces on the bands which cross in the back and that is the only place this shape occurs. Some of the pieces are petal shaped but still small and refined like the circles.