A large Chinese Painted Pottery Court Lady, Tang Dynasty,
ca. mid 8th century CE
One of the most iconic and desired of all Tang ceramic types, a charming terracotta court lady with a sensitively modeled face of pinkish flesh tones, red lips, and black highlighting eyes and brows. She stands on an integral base, dressed in long-sleeved, flowing robes that emphasize the fluid folds and pleats of her gown, thus providing a sense of grace and dynamism to her voluptuous figure. The robe covers her left foot, but her tiny right foot, encased within a small upturned shoe, peeps from the hem of her gown. She holds both her hands in front of her with her right hand lightly fisted. Her hair is dressed into an elaborate coiffure, and tied into a knot at the top.
Background: The Tang sculptors’ careful attention to fashion and physiognomy details allows us to trace in their works the changing fashions of ladies at court during this period. Models of court ladies made in the early part of the Tang dynasty depict them wearing tight-fitting garments that accentuated their slender forms.
However, the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (reigned 712-756) seems to have heralded the growth in popularity of a more generous female form and the adoption of less structured, more flowing robes. This shift in aesthetic tastes is thought to have been influenced by the Emperor's favorite concubine, Yang Guifei (719 - 756), known as one of the four great beauties of ancient China, and whose curvaceous physique was legendary. Yet, excavated figures suggest the fashion was already coming to prominence by the time Yang Guifei won the emperor’s admiration. Dressed in elegant clothes with their hair arranged in elaborate coiffures, and their faces beautified with cosmetics, these aristocratic Tang women figures possess a singular grace and charm.
cf: Jan Fontein and Tung Wu, Unearthing China’s Past (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1973), pp. 174-175, no. 89 (46cm high) and fig. 90.
Diao Shi Ru Sheng: Gugong Cang Sui Tang Taoyong (Carved and Clothed as if Alive: Sui and Tang Dynasty Tomb Figurines in the Collection of the Gugong Museum), Forbidden City press, Beijing, 2006, no. 44, p. 98
Bower, V., From Court to Caravan: Chinese Tomb Sculptures from the Collection of Anthony M. Solomon, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass. 2002, no.33, p.112
James C.Y. Watt and Prudence Oliver Harper (ed.), China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), pp. 310-11, nos. 202 A and B.
Zhou, Xun and Gao, Chunming, 5000 Years of Chinese Costumes, Hong Kong, 1984, pl. 178, p. 99
Diao Shi Ru Sheng: Gugong Cang Sui Tang Taoyong (Carved and Clothed as if Alive: Sui and Tang Dynasty Tomb Figurines in the Collection of the Gugong Museum), Forbidden City press, Beijing, 2006, no. 41, p. 95
Condition: Modeled from reddish-colored clay, with excellent remaining white pigment, delicate red, pink, and black highlights, with possible light cosmetic touchup. Left hand missing, else complete and in very good condition overall. Just charming!
Dimensions: Height: 18 1/2 inches (47 cm)
Provenance: Private collection of Dr. Edmund Bourke, Yonkers, NY, acquired from Fernando Flores & Iva Antiques, NYC around 2010, item # CH89B.
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ca. mid 8th century CE
ca. mid 8th century CE