Pair of Tang Dynasty Dancers

£ 3,200.00

A pair of hollow-cast Chinese Tang Dynasty earthenware dancers on integral rectangular bases, with their movements mirroring one another. The dancers wear vibrant long red robes that are finely decorated with visible folds on the shoulders, with traces of ochre pigment forming a dotted pattern over the whole and black belts that run across the chest. These long robes flow to the base and flare outwards in a circular motion, suggesting that the figures are in mid-dance; their movements are enhanced by their dynamic postures. The short-sleeved red robes reveal long-sleeved light-green sleeves underneath. Each figure has one arm outstretched with the sleeve pleated, revealing the hand with the thumb touching the middle finger. This hand-shape may be mimicking a bird’s beak. The other arm is tucked behind, with the long sleeve obscuring the hand. They wear a headdress with a bird, possibly a peacock or a phoenix, whose feathers flow back towards the dancer’s neck. At the front, the headdress is intricately decorated with swirls. The bird’s tail drops further down below the figure’s neck and down the back. The bird is light green, with its crown in a striking red colour. The dancers’ faces are rounded, and have been delicately drawn with a fine brush; the cheeks have faint red makeup, and the eyes and eyebrows are defined and done in dark brown paint. The pair is accompanied by a Thermoluminescence analysis, confirming the date.

Date: Circa 618-906 AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
Provenance: Ex. Cheuk family collection, Hong Kong.
Condition: Very fine, intact, with both dancers displaying earthly encrustations over the whole. The colours and contours are still well defined. Minor chipping to the base. One finger is missing from one of the figures. The other has small drilling holes on the back due to TL testing.


Product Code: CS-16
Category: Tags: , , ,

This way of representing courtiers and dancers as plump appears in 730 AD. Emperor Zuanzong’s love for the concubine with ample curves, Yang Guifei, seems to have been at the origin of this change in representations of dancers and courtiers in Tang Dynasty art. Dancing with sleeve movements was well established by the Tang Dynasty, having been performed since the Zhou Dynasty. Another popular dance is the Long Sleeve Dance, depicted in many images and sculptures and still surviving today. The art of dance in China reached a peak during the Tang Dynasty, which was the golden age of Chinese music and dance. The Great Music Bureau (太樂署) was set up to oversee the training and performances of music and dance in the imperial court, and the Drums and Pipes Bureau (鼓吹署) was responsible for ceremonial music. Terracotta moulded figures of people and animals were meant to be grave goods to be placed in tombs. It was believed that these figures would serve and assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqui in Chinese, and usually depict servants, officials, soldiers, musicians, court attendants, dancers and, in the case of animals, horses and Bactrian camels. As in life, attendant figures are depicted standing nearby, waiting to fulfil the desires and needs of the deceased. They were lined outside the tomb before the coffin was taken inside, and then placed and arranged inside the tomb. The size and number of the figures in a grave depended on the rank of the deceased.

To discover more about Tang tomb figurines, please visit our relevant post: Chinese Tang Dynasty: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.

Dimensions H 30.5 cm

East Asia (Far East)



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