This handsome figure is a particularly large and elegant example of the court ladies that became fashionable in the second half of the Tang dynasty. Figures of similar style were excavated from the tomb of Wu Shouzhong, who was buried near the Tang capital, Xi'an, Shaanxi province, in AD 748. See The Quest for Eternity - Chinese Ceramic Sculptures from the People's Republic of China, Los Angeles County Museum, 1987, nos. 83 and 84. Although the models of court ladies made in the early part of the Tang dynasty depict them wearing tight-fitting garments, which accentuated their slender forms, the reign of the Emperor Ming Huang seems to have heralded the growth in popularity of a more generous female form and the adoption of less structured, more 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 immortalised in one of China's best- known literary works, The Song of Eternal Regret. However, excavated figures suggest that the fashion for more voluptuous figures was already coming to prominence by the time that Yang Guifei won the emperor's admiration.
In addition to their robes, the hairstyles of these figures also differ from those of their slender predecessors. While the latter tended to have their hair drawn back from the face and then arranged in one or two elaborate knots, the plumper ladies, like the current figure, tend to have softer hair styles. The hair is much fuller, framing the upper part of the face and is tied in a looser arrangement on top. Their full cheeks are often painted, as on the current figure, to indicate the use of much rouge, and in some cases simple flower shapes are also applied in much the same way that European women used to apply 'beauty spots'. The unusual pose of this court lady has been caught in an intimate moment of adjusting her hair while looking in the mirror held in her left hand.