Lot 1256. A rare large painted and blue, amber and green-glazed pottery figure of a court lady, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907); 19 3/8 in. (49.2 cm.) high. Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 150,000. Price realised USD 135,750. © Christie's Images Ltd 2013
The figure stands in a swaying pose on a flat, canted base. The raised right hand and the lowered left arm are concealed by the heavy sleeves of the long robe that falls to the base revealing one blue-glazed slipper and covering the other foot. The robe is glazed across the shoulders in cobalt blue, in green on the sleeves and in amber-yellow on the torso and skirt, and is incised with strong lines that depict the long folds of the cloth. The delicate features of the round, unglazed face are picked out in black pigment, with softly shaded rose-pink cheeks framed by the black-pigmented hair that is drawn up in a topknot and gathered in a net at the back of the neck. The flat base has traces of orange-red pigment, box, wood stand.
Provenance: Sotheby's London, 7 June 1988, lot 73.
Note: Beautifully modeled with carefully incised lines that suggest the folds of the garment, this lady exhibits a rare combination of underglaze cobalt blue with both green and amber glazes. Some of the most elegant and finest examples of Tang-dynasty ladies are decorated with the rich, cobalt-blue glaze, however with the more usual combination of amber and cream tones. The inclusion of the green with the blue is very unusual.
The treatment of the long, flowing robes on this figure, with the incised lines, can be compared with that found on two blue, amber and cream-glazed ladies from Zhangbao Village, Xi'an, Shaanxi province, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Quest for Eternity - Chinese Ceramic Sculpture from the People's Republic of China, Los Angeles County Museum, 1987, p. 86, nos. 77 and 78, and now in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum. Two other comparable figures of standing ladies, glazed in blue, amber and cream and with unglazed and painted heads, their hands partially concealed within their long sleeves, in the Yamato Bunkakan Museum, Nara, are illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu - 11 - Sui, Tang, Tokyo, 1976, p. 83, nos. 62 and 64. These two exhibit both molded and incised details that depict the folds of the robes and pendant tassels.
The reign of Emperor Ming Huang seems to have heralded the growth in popularity of a more generous female form and the adoption of less structured, flowing robes. This change in style has traditionally been attributed to the influence of the emperor's adored concubine Yang Guifei, who was reported to have had a rather voluptuous figure. Yang Guifei was held partly responsible for the circumstances that led to the An Lushan rebellion of AD 756, and she was executed by the accompanying troops as she and the Emperor fled to Sichuan. The Emperor's grief at her loss was immortalized in one of China's best- known literary works, The Song of Eternal Regret. However, excavated figures suggest that this fashion was already coming to prominence by the time that Yang Guifei won the emperor's admiration.
Oxford Authentication Thermoluminescence test number C113g55 is consistent with the dating of this lot.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 19 - 20 September 2013