Height: 19 inches, 48.2 cm


Pottery figure of a Court lady

China, Tang dynasty, 618 - 906

An imposing red pottery figure of a standing Court lady, her body posed in an elegant curve, her feet spread wide apart and her head markedly inclined to the right.  She lifts both hands in front of her. The hands are covered by the elaborately pleated sleeves of her robe. Her long robe falls in deep folds to the floor, where her extravagantly curved right shoe protrudes from just underneath the hem. The red pottery is completely covered in a thin layer of white slip upon which traces of orange, pink and black pigments are visible.

This impressive, full-bodied figure of a lady with elaborately arranged coiffure and confident stance represents quite a departure from the standard type of Tang pottery courtier. A superbly accomplished potter undoubtedly executed the lively modelling with the head inclined as if listening intently, and the minutely detailed folds of the fabric on the sleeves. Perhaps the closest parallel is a (much smaller) figure of a woman in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum, who equally stands with her feet wide apart, holding a small dog in her arms. Her arms are folded in a very similar way and she is clad in an equally deeply grooved robe that covers her full figure.[1] The plumpness of these figures is often associated with Yang Guei-fei, the famous Tang concubine, but excavations have shown that this ideal of feminine beauty was already prevalent in the 720’s, before Yang Guei-fei’s rise to prominence. An interesting comparison with the present Court lady’s right shoe with its fanciful toes can be found in a pair of miraculously preserved Tang dynasty fabric shoes with equally elaborate decoration, excavated in Asitana, Turfun, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.[2]

Oxford Thermoluminecense certificate C123q87

  1. Medley, M. T’ang Pottery & Porcelain, Faber and Faber, London, 1981, no. 40, p. 50
  2. Zhou Xun and Gao Chunming, 5000 Years of Chinese Costumes, Hong Kong 1984, plate 178, page 99