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HOME : Chinese Art : Archive : Early Tang Painted Terracotta Courtier and Attendant
Early Tang Painted Terracotta Courtier and Attendant - H.1080
Origin: China
Circa: 7 th Century AD to 8 th Century AD
Dimensions: 14" (35.6cm) high
Collection: Chinese art
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: Great Britain
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The T’ang Dynasty was a golden age of Chinese culture. The arts reached new levels of sophistication. Poetry and literature flourished under the enlightened rulership. The Silk Road brought fortunes into China on the backs of camels, carrying exotic luxury items from distant lands. Foreign merchants from across Central Asia and the Middle East settled in the urban centers of the T’ang China, foremost among them the thriving capital of Chang’an (modern X’ian), a bustling cosmopolitan center of over two million inhabitants. The T’ang Dynasty was a relatively stable period of great prosperity representing one of the greatest cultural flourishings in human history. During the Tang Dynasty, restrictions were placed on the number of objects that could be included in tombs, an amount determined by an individual's social rank.

In spite of the limitations, a striking variety of tomb furnishings, known as mingqi, have been excavated. Entire retinues of ceramic figures - animals, entertainers, musicians, guardians - were buried with the dead in order to provide for the afterlife. Of the various types of mingqi, there is perhaps none more beautiful or charming than the sculptures of elegant female courtiers. These gorgeous sculptures represent the idealized woman of T’ang Dynasty China. This pair of sophisticated ladies would have provided eternal companionship for her lord throughout the afterlife. We can imagine them dancing gracefully or singing poetical songs, two customs popular with ladies during the T’ang Dynasty. Such courtiers are described in the numerous love poems written during this era, likely the greatest outpouring of poetry in Chinese history.

Much of the original pigment that once decorated these figures remains intact. One of the ladies wears a red shirt over a long, yellow ochre skirt. Her hair has been styled into an impressive cresent-shaped coiffure. Her companion wears a high pleated dress with long sleeves that were fashionable during this era. Dancers used the excess fabric of such sleeves as ribbons in their routines. Although this woman wears a hood that covers her hair, due to the height and shape of the hood, we can presume that she has her hair styled in a similar form. Such women may represent wives, princesses, or attendants. These terracotta effigies of ancient courtiers are symbolic of the enormous wealth and sophisticated culture of the T’ang Dynasty, one of the greatest periods of artistic creation in human history. - (H.1080)


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