A sancai-glazed figure of a woman holding a goose, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907)

Lot 704. sancai-glazed figure of a woman holding a goose, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907); 12½ in. (31.8 cm.) high. Estimate USD 30,000 - USD 50,000. Price realised USD 81,250. © Christie’s Image Ltd 2014

The woman is seated on a rock stool while holding a goose-form wine vessel in her arms. She wears a tunic worn over the right shoulder, while the left sleeve is tucked under the belt in back, and is splash-and-resist-glazed in green, amber and cream. The head and chest are unglazed. The round face is modeled with soft, delicate features and the hair is worn in a braid around the back of the head. 

Provenance: Anna Ilsley Ball Kneeland (1865-1955), New York, acquired 1918-1931, and thence by descent within the family.

Exhibited: On loan: Yale University Art Gallery, 1955 to April 2014.

NoteIn figures of this type, the goose being held has been identified as both a goose being force fed and as a wine vessel. Jan Chapman in her paper, 'A New Look at 'Wine Carriers' Among Tang Dynasty Figures', T.O.C.S., vol. 52, 1987-88, pp. 11-20, illustrates two similar figures, p. 12, pls. 1 and 2, the first in the Rietberg Museum, the second in The Burrell Collection, Glasgow Museums and Art Gallery, and proposes for these figures as well as the others illustrated, both male and female, that they do not hold a real goose, or lion, but an earthenware vessel of goose or lion shape, in which a rhinoceros horn has been inserted as a stopper, which could also be used as a cup. The figures are usually identified as foreigners, of Central or Western Asian type. A figure, similar to the present figure, from Shanxi province, is illustrated in Wenwu, 1989:6, col. pl. and black and white pl. 4.1.

A related female figure holding a goose, but shown in a kneeling position, from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, was sold at Christie's New York, 1 December 1994, lot 151A.

Christie’s. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 18 – 19 September 2014, New York, Rockefeller Plaza