Detail View: The AMICA Library: Court Lady

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: 
Court Lady
Full view
Creation Date: 
Tang period, 8th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Earthenware with multicolored lead glazes and traces of pigment (sancai ware)
Creation Place: 
North China
H. 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
The use of clay to make sculptures and other furnishings for tombs is one of the most distinctive aspects of Chinese ceramic history. The Chinese belief in and desire for an afterlife that continued the pleasures and activities of the world is reflected in the use of ceramics to make models (known as spirit goods, or mingqi) of attendants, entertainers, pets, domestic animals, and a host of worldly goods, all of which would be needed and used by the deceased in his or her afterlife.

Many tomb sculptures from the Tang period (618-906) are coated with the vibrant lead glazes known as three-color or sancai. The abundant use of a glaze colored with cobalt blue in the dress worn by this seated figure of a court lady holding cymbals helps to distinguish this piece as a luxurious example of Tang sancai. Imported to China from Iran, cobalt was expensive and used sparingly.

Both the high-waisted dress worn by this figure and her youthful charm typify sculptures of women produced during the late 7th century, as fuller figured beauties became popular in the early 8th. The two-tone decoration of her dress was fashionable in the second half of the 7th century. In this case, both the amber and the blue parts of the gown are decorated with various-sized spots of unglazed clay created by a resist process. There are traces of pigment on her face and hair.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 54.
Related Document Description: 
Beurdeley, Cecile, and Michael Beurdeley. A Connoisseur's Guide to Chinese Ceramics. New York: Harper & Row, 1974, pp. 88, 103.
Related Document Description: 
Christie, Manson, and Woods. Chinese Art (auction, London, October 12, 1970), lot 99.
Related Document Description: 
Fleming, S. J. 'Thermoluminescence and Glaze Studies of a Group of T'ang Dynasty Ceramics.' Archaeometry 15 (1973), pl. B, sample no. 127W5.
Related Document Description: 
Juliano, Annette. Treasures of China. New York: Richard Marek, 1981, p. 144.
Related Document Description: 
Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 42, 96.
Related Document Description: 
Lion-Goldschmidt, Daisy, and Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard. Chinese Art, vol. 1, Bronze, Jade, Sculpture, Ceramics. New York: Universe Books, 1960, pp. 310-11.
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