Lot 1255. A large painted red pottery figure of a court lady, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907); 21 7/8 in. (55.8 cm.) high. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. Price realised USD 87,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2013
The elegant figure stands on a flat, shaped base, and is dressed in a long robe that falls to the feet in heavy folds that emphasize the graceful sway of the body, and trails in a fan shape at back. The robe conceals her hands that are held together at the front of the chest. The face is sensitively modeled with full cheeks, a small, dimpled chin and a crisply carved mouth, nose and elongated eyes, and is framed by the soft coiffure which is drawn up into a large loop that is worn to one side. The figure is covered in white slip and shows traces of red and green pigments, wood stand.
Provenance: Eskenazi, London.
Toguri Collection, Tokyo.
Sotheby's London, 9 June 2004, lot 87.
Literature: Zaidan Hojin Toguri Bijutsukan zohin senshu: Seireki 2000 nen kinen suroku (Selected works from the Toguri Museum of Art Foundation: Commemorative Catalogue of the year 2000 AD), Tokyo, 2000, p. 16, col. pl. 6, p. 123, no. 6.
Exhibited: Eskenazi, London, Tang, 9 June - 3 July 1987, no. 29.
Note: This elegant figure exemplifies the court ladies that became fashionable in the second half of the Tang dynasty, and represents the ideal female of the time. The size, shape of the face, treatment of the robes, and the hairstyle of this figure are similar to those of a figure illustrated in The Quest for Eternity - Chinese Ceramic Sculptures from the People's Republic of China, Los Angeles County Museum, 1987, p. 139, no. 83, and the cover. Another related figure of a painted pottery court lady, with slightly differing hand position, was sold in these rooms, 20 September 2005, lot 180.
Although the models of court ladies made in the early part of the Tang dynasty depict them wearing tight-fitting garments, which accentuated their slender forms, the reign of the Emperor Ming Huang seems to have heralded the growth in popularity of a more generous female form and the adoption of less structured, more flowing robes. In addition to their robes, the hairstyles of these figures also differ from those of their slender predecessors. While the latter tended to have their hair drawn back from the face and then arranged in one or two elaborate knots, the plumper ladies, like the current figure, tend to have softer hair styles. The hair is much fuller, framing the upper part of the face and is tied in a looser arrangement on top. Their full cheeks are often painted, to indicate the use of rouge, and in some cases simple flower shapes are also applied in much the same way that European women used to apply 'beauty spots'.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 19 - 20 September 2013