Figure of a Seated Court Lady
Tang dynasty (618–907)
Earthenware with three-color (sancai) glaze
H. 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm); W. 5 5/8 in. (14.3 cm); D. 6 1/16 in. (15.4 cm)
Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 2010
This charming figure brings to life a moment of leisure at the Tang imperial court. The plump young lady sits in a relaxed pose, accompanied by a playful lapdog next to her slipper. Bright, clear-toned glazes—a recent innovation in ceramic technology—enhance the beauty of her clothes with striking colors, amber yellow for her jacket and bright green for her sash and skirts. The hourglass-shaped stool, originally made of rattan, points to the trade and exchange with South Asia during this prosperous and cosmopolitan age.
This classic example of Tang sculpture illustrates the artistic sophistication of figural representation in the eighth century, when Chinese artists first mastered the skills to represent the human form in the round and with naturalistic details, which they adopted from the West through Buddhist art. At the same time, they maintained a certain degree of the Chinese linear tradition, as shown in the rhythmic drapery folds.
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