East Asia, China, Ming Dynasty, ca. 1368 to 1644 CE. A glazed ceramic figure depicting a scholar standing upon a tiered pedestal. The studious fellow carries a book in the crook of his right arm, and is well dressed, wearing a buttoned short sleeve shirt detailed with an aqua blue-green collar, piping, and buttons over long, voluminous black sleeves and a full-length aqua blue-green robe with three salmon colored tassels, closed shoes/boots, and a fez-like hat with squared-off edges. An outstanding piece that appeals to us today as it offers a window to the past, revealing customs, styles, and artistic activities of this ancient Chinese society.Size: 7.375" W x 24.125" H (18.7 cm x 61.3 cm)
Tomb attendants like this one are part of a class of artifacts called mingqi - sometimes known as "spirit utensils" or "vessels for ghosts". They became popular in the Han Dynasty and would persist for several centuries. Alongside figures like this one were musicians, athletes, animals, structures… Even though they were mass produced, mingqi often show a high level of detail and naturalism. These were designed to assist the po, the part of the soul of the deceased that remained underground with the body while the hun, the other part of the soul, ascended. Hundreds of pottery figures like these were placed into tombs during the Ming period as well. In one undisturbed Ming Dynasty prince's tomb, archaeologists found an array of small figures placed as if in ceremonial procession; the deceased's books, paintings, clothing, and other personal affects were also present.
Provenance: private Illinois, USA collection; ex-Senatus Consulto Copenhagen, Denmark; ex private European collection
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