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 Century

the two young girls shown in the same graceful pose each on a wide square platform with engraved border probably intended as a rug, with hips swung to one side and one foot slightly forward, their hands covered by long sleeves and their arms held out to either side, one arm up and one down in the midst of a sleeve-tossing dance gesture, with their black-painted hair in matching double topknots and wearing high-waisted dresses, one with red-painted bodice and the other with purplish-brown bodice and red-striped skirt, their faces with small features delicately drawn in black and red, the pale buff pottery unusually highly-fired.

Height 10 58 inches and 11 14 inches (27 cm and 28.6 cm)

These young Chinese dancers wearing  the daring new style of dress recently introduced via the ‘Silk Road’ and performing dances in the lively Central Asian manner were the height of fashion for entertainment at the Tang court, as described in the rhapsody by the eminent Tang poet Li Bai (A.D. 701-762):

They sang to me and drummed, the boys of Yan and Zhao,
Lovely girls plucked the sounding strings.
Their painted cheeks shone like dazzling suns;
The dancers’ sleeves shook out like blossoming boughs.

quoted in Homage to Heaven, Homage to Earth, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 1992, p. 148.

Compare the similarly modelled pair of straw-glazed pottery dancers, also with upswept hair in double topknots, excavated from the tomb of Zheng Reng Tai, in Lichuan county, Shaanxi province, with an epitaph dated to A.D. 663, illustrated in Wenwu, 1972, No. 7, pl. 4, no. 3.  The same figures are also illustrated in Sekai Toji Zenshu (Ceramic Art of the World), Vol. 11, Japan, 1976, col. pl. 180, p. 223.