Standing female attendant, Tang dynasty (618–906), late 7th–early 8th century
Wood with pigment; H. 21 in. (53.3 cm)
Gift of Enid A. Haupt, 1997 (1997.442.7.2)
This slender attendant is a rare example of a wood mingqi that, despite its fragile material, endured underground for centuries.
The young woman displays some of the delicate and painstaking hallmarks of Tang beauty. Her hair has been piled into an artfully dropping chignon, one of the numerous elaborate styles of the time. Above her eyes, one of several shapes of eyebrows, such as the soft "moth brows," would have been painted. Round, youthful cheeks stand in contrast to her willowy frame, the ideal feminine physique before the mid-eighth century, when more curvaceous statures became the measure of perfection. Her short-sleeved jacket with traces of red and yellow pigment, remnants of elaborate brocade, is fastened with a tie over a low-cut gown with close-fitting sleeves, a style known as the "western style," adopted most likely from Central Asia or possibly Persia. Upturned shoes peek out from beneath the hem of her dress. Her gentle smile and demure posture are appropriate to her station, but were not universal attributes, especially in Tang noblewomen, who are often displayed proudly astride a horse and sometimes even swinging a polo stick at full gallop.