Lot 1259: Chinese Gilt Acrobats Set
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Han Dynasty, 206 BC-220 AD. A group of five gilt bronze acrobats comprising: a male standing on hands, body arching forward; a chubby male with knees bent and arms outstretched, head turned to one side; a male crouching, knees bent with both arms bent, left palm facing upwards, right hand holding a vase; a male standing on one leg, knee bent, right leg held back and arching, sole of foot pointing up and with arms outstretched; a male kneeling on one leg, other bent at knee, left arm held back, bent at elbow and palm facing down, right arm held in front with palm facing; each wearing a belted tunic and trousers and with bun to the head. 559 grams total, 60-80mm (2 1/4 - 3 1/4"). Property of a London collector; by inheritance from his grandfather; acquired during travels in the Far East in the 1920s. Historical records, carvings and mural paintings in tombs and grottoes, such as the brick carvings discovered in the Han Dynasty tomb of Chengdu, in the Szechuan province, date the origins of Chinese acrobatics more than two thousands years ago, during the Warring States period. They developed mostly during the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C.-230 A.D.) and reached a remarkable level of quality and refinement during the Western Han Dynasty, evolving from a simple exhibition of skills into a performing art, with a rich and eclectic repertory including tumbling, balancing, plate spinning, pole balancing, rope dancing, etc. This acrobatic performance was known as The Show of One Hundred Skills. Performances were popular with all levels of society, with the emperor providing lavish entertainment for his court, but with performances also taking place at fairs and in the streets for the enjoyment of the people. Images such as these would have been intended to be placed in the tomb so that the deceased could continue to enjoy acrobatic entertainment through the spirits of the objects that would come to life for him in the next world. 
Condition Report: Very fine condition.