• Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works  auction at Christies

    Sale 2196

    Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections

    15 September 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 312

    A RARE MASSIVE SANCAI-GLAZED POTTERY FIGURE OF A COURT OFFICIAL

    TANG DYNASTY (618-907)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A RARE MASSIVE SANCAI-GLAZED POTTERY FIGURE OF A COURT OFFICIAL
    TANG DYNASTY (618-907)
    The elegant courtier boldly modeled standing on a splash-glazed, pierced rock-form base with hands held out in front, the right raised to hold an object, wearing a sancai-glazed breastplate over a long-sleeved amber tunic with green lining, cream-glazed trousers and amber shoes with slightly upturned toes, the unglazed face washed with a pale orange-red pigment and modeled with full cheeks and high arched eyebrows, the hair delicately rendered in black pigment, the head surmounted by a tall cap modeled with a bird in flight
    51 in. (129.5 cm.) high


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    This unusually large and impressive figure obviously represents a court official of considerable standing. On top of his official robes he wears a set of cuirasses, which relate to those worn by military officers. Of special note is his hat, which has an open-winged bird on the front. The bird would appear to be an indication of rank. Other figures wearing hats with similar birds have been excavated. A large figure, only slightly smaller than the current example, decorated with cold paint excavated in 1972 at Xingtaocun, Kongquanxian, Shaanxi province is illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji - 7 - Tang sancai, Shanghai, 1983, no. 36. This excavated figure shares with the current courtier a similar official hat with open-winged bird on the front, and similar robes with up-turned collar.

    The tomb from which this figure came must have belonged to someone of high status. This unusually large figure would have been expensive even at the time it was made, and for it to be appropriate that figures of this size be buried with him, the occupant of the tomb must have been of considerable consequence, possibly a member of the aristocracy. This figure is, for example, larger than the fine figures buried with either General Zhang Shigui, who served the Emperor Taizong, or General An Pu, whose tomb was excavated in 1981. It may be significant that a large, sancai, similarly dressed figure with an open-winged bird on the front of his hat, although without the cuirasses, was excavated from the Qianling mausoleum, belonging to Prince Zhang Huai. See Ten Major Museums of Shaanxi, Hong Kong, 1994, p. 124, left image. Interestingly this Qianling figure shares with the current figure the feature of wearing trousers beneath his three-quarter length outer robe, rather than the more usual floor length under robe. It is also worth noting that the current figure is still larger than the figures from the prince's tomb.

    The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C108d26 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

    Provenance

    Acquired prior to 1996.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN