This extremely rare figure shown in the most unusual posture of kowtowing or prostration is also unusual in its size and the attention to detail in the modeling. It is very similar to what may be the only other published figure of this type, a courtier wearing the same hat and similar robes shown in an even more prostrate position, his body completely lowered and his head held just above and behind his clasped hands. This latter figure unearthed in 1953 from the tomb of Di Zhang Wan (d. 744), Xianyang, Shaanxi province, is illustrated in Wenwu, 1954:10, pl. 55 and was included in the exhibition, China. Korea. Japan, Propylen Verlag, Berlin, 1968, and illustrated by J. Fontein and R. Hempel in the Catalogue, pl. XIX. The figure which has traces of red pigment also has a sensitively modeled face very similar to that of the present figure and the robes appear to sweep around the body in the same graceful manner.
Another interesting feature in the present figure is the narrow slit in the top of the clasped hands, indicating that a hu court tablet might originally have been inserted. These tablets made of ivory were carried by officials while in the imperial presence and are thought to have been used as early as the Tang dynasty. See an ivory example of this type included in the O.C.S. exhibition, Chinese Ivories from the Shang to the Qing, British Museum, 24 May - 19 August 1984, Catalogue, pp. 142-143. no. 158.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C298k58 is consistent with the dating of this lot.