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Lot 1251: Chinese Massive Pair of Foreign Grooms
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Tang Dynasty, 618-906 AD. A pair of large ceramic figures of foreign grooms with pigment, one facing left, the other facing right; both in belted tunics with large lapels, and wearing trousers with boots; both with beards and wearing caps, the right facing groom similar to a Persian cap; both with arms bent and fists clenched; left facing figure with some restoration. 23.1 kg total, 73-76cm (28 3/4 - 30"). Acquired on the London art market prior to 1980. Supplied with a copy of the item's Thermoluminescence test result, undertaken by Oxford Authentication, certificate number C115f61. Known as mingqi, meaning Spirit utensils, these figures first became popular in the Han dynasty. Tang mingqi integrated the guardian figures and pack animals of the earlier Northern and Southern Dynasties, but also incorporated the many international influences that were popular during this time of stability and expansion. As in the Han dynasty, Tang mingqi frequently take the form of musicians, dancers, and servants in clay, but are ornamented with sancai (three-colour) glaze, an artistic influence that was transmitted from Central Asia along the Silk Road. Foreigners were also frequently depicted, reflecting a cosmopolitan society that embraced exchanges with other groups and cultures. As in the Han dynasty, Tang mingqi were part of a complex tomb program, often with stone statuary lining a spirit road. However, their function was firmly rooted in consolidating power in the earthly world. Important funerals were sponsored by the state and were a way for the imperial government to strengthen ties with influential Chinese families and even solidify loyalty with foreign emissaries and the governments they represented. As in the Han dynasty, Tang mingqi and the larger program of funerary practices reflected ties among the living. Mingqi worked in concert with other tomb objects and architecture to support a larger funerary agenda, the goal of which was to comfort and satisfy the deceased, who was believed to have two souls: the po, which resided underground with the body, and the hun. While the hun could ascend to the skies, funerary rituals sometimes sought to reunite it with the po in the safer realm of the tomb. Here, valuables such as bronzes, lacquers, and silks, frequently decorated with Daoist imagery, surrounded the coffin. Funerary objects such as mingqi worked in concert with other funerary objects, tomb architecture, shrines, and spirit-road sculptures to achieve a goal that exceeded the well-being of the family. According to Confucian doctrine, when every person performed their prescribed social role to perfection, the cosmos would achieve harmony. By ensuring the well-being of the dead, the living promoted accord in the celestial realm and in their own terrestrial existence.
Condition Report: Finely modelled.