East Asia, China, Tang Dynasty, ca. 618 to 907 CE. A beautifully preserved, evocative terracotta tomb attendant of a noblewoman. She wears a long robe and stands with her body tilted slightly backward, one hand resting against her thigh, the other raised in front of her chest. Tiny feet in pointy-toed shoes emerge from the lower part of her robe. Her face features a sweet smile, narrow, almond-shaped eyes, and dimpled cheeks. Atop her head is an elaborate coiffure. The remains of brightly painted pigment color her dress, face, and hair. Hundreds of pottery figures like this one were carefully placed in the tombs of high-ranking people during the Tang period; one of the most interesting things about them is that they often seem to represent individuals rather than having been mass produced. Size: 6.4" L x 17.7" W (16.3 cm x 45 cm)
The Tang Dynasty was a golden age in China, when its control of oases along the Silk Road allowed both the export of Chinese goods and the import of people and ideas from places like India, Persia, and even further afield. The capital city, Changan (modern day Xian) had 2 million inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities in the world at the time, and there was a large class of literati and artisans supported by the government who lived there. This artisan class had the luxury to produce these beautiful unique figures. After a mold was used to form figures like this one into basic shapes, artists would then use scrapers and hand-modelling to give them their individuality.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
Provenance: Howard Rose Gallery, New York, USA; ex-Mel Fingerhut collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1960s to 1980s
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Intact! Two TL drill holes on back. Small areas of old adhesive around the underside. Nice remains of pigment as shown.