J.J. Lally & Co., Oriental Art / New York City, New York


Past Exhibition

Ancient Chinese Tomb Sculpture

March 22 - April 10, 2004


Tang Dynasty, A.D. 7th – 8th Century

well modelled from red pottery, the corpulent lady of the court shown standing quietly with a small child cradled in her right arm, the child shown as a smaller version of the lady, with the same broad face and plump body, the hair carefully dressed into two small buns and wearing long robes, turned and facing the observer with one hand held out, the court lady wearing a shawl with trailing ends over long voluminous robes falling in pleated folds to the platform base, with the upturned petal-lobed toes of her shoes emerging at the hem, her face with delicate features set in a calm gaze, with brightly rouged cheeks, red lips and black-painted eyes and eyebrows, her hair also painted black and gathered into an elaborate topknot, with extensive remains of original hair-fibers remaining attached, her hands concealed beneath wide sleeves with the empty cuffs hanging down, her robes showing faint traces of a floral pattern painted in pale colors over white slip.

Height 19 12 inches (49.5 cm)

Compare the large Tang red pottery figure of a ‘fat lady’ holding a baby illustrated in Zhongguo Diaosu Yishu Shi (History of the Art of Chinese Sculpture), Vol. 2, Beijing 1988, no. 466. 

It is extremely rare to see the image of a child among tomb sculptures in the Tang period.  Several reasons for the scarcity are discussed by Wick and Avril in their introduction to Children in Chinese Art, Honolulu, 2002, pp. 29-30, where the authors also discuss the fact that clothing and hair styles of children in Chinese history were androgynous, and state that “Most children in Chinese art are in fact boys, whether they appear so to modern eyes or not.”