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HOME : Chinese Art : Han Dynasty : Han Kneeling Figure
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Han Kneeling Figure - DC.2001
Origin: China
Circa: 206 BC to 220 AD
Dimensions: 9" (22.9cm) high x 6.25" (15.9cm) wide
Collection: Chinese Art
Style: Han Dynasty
Medium: Terracotta
Condition: Very Fine

Location: United States
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As did the Egyptians, noblemen from the Han Dynasty would inter with their bodies mingqi, or “spirit articles” that were believed to hold the essential energy of the depicted person, animal, or object. This attendant, so jovial in his expression seems so above his station in dress, manner, and execution that he must’ve served one of the highest elite among Chinese society. If not for his servant’s cap and subservient posture, we might mistake this humble groom for the nobleman he waited upon. His full cheeks, stout neck, and the blissful curve of his smile all suggest a life full of food, wine, and song. The epicure is garbed in a sumptuous robe that curves around the smooth of his belly and the rounded nubs of his knees. His left hand, now empty- might’ve clasped a parasol or fan with which to keep is Lord cool, or a flag or banner representing the bloodline of the nobleman. We see, in this attendant the true respect and intimacy afforded between social classes within Chinese society. He is no cold and faceless servant; but a real person who enjoyed the chance to smile and joke with the upper crust. While we in the modern world may not expect him to shade us or offer us material comfort, the presence- the arresting and utterly irresistible friendliness of our attendant offers us a much more permanent and integral comfort. Too often art finds itself lost in canon and flattery- portraying kings and warriors in such a way as will ensure that the ego of the subject, and head of the sculptor, remains intact. The artist, perhaps because he was portraying someone it was not appropriate to idealize or deify, captured the intimacy, vibrancy, and intensity of an actual man. Locked in this bit of clay, a smile, a laugh, and a friendly, humble gesture has survived in all of its detail and movement for over a thousand years. - (DC.2001)


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