This is a rare, museum quality, wonderfully sculpted ancient figure. It is Han Dynasty, from the Sichuan Province of China, dating from 25 AD-190 AD. It is a classical, Sichuan Han study, full of life, humour and movement. The face, with its typical, almost haunting, mysterious smile, is characteristic of the sculpting from the Sichuan Province. But equally characteristic is the sculptor’s liking for lively individuality. This comes through in the dancer’s robust movements, as she leans to the right, raises her hands in a dance movement, while her knees bulge through the skirt. The foot is only hinted at, but one knows it is there as it peeps out of the hem. The dancer is wearing a cross over robe with full, embroidered sleeves (which show in the detail illustration, as slightly wavy sleeves. The upraised arm shows long sleeves, with the hand holding a scarf, as the dancing takes place. The headdress is covered in flowers, surprisingly still intact, considering this figure is over 2000 years old.
Figures from the tomb are not unique to China. But the Chinese developed their practice in a vivid, all inclusive way. Emperors as well as wealthy landowners and generals invested in this expensive habit. In order for the deceased to enjoy a full and content afterlife, the tomb needed to be furnished and equipped with all he had enjoyed in life. Animals, food, furniture, attendants, courtesans, entertainers, (like this dancer), guardians and soldiers, all populated the tombs.
But it is important to place the Han Dynasty in a historical context: it took place just after the Chin Dynasty, the dynasty noted for the famed life size Chinese terracotta warriors, now viewable in Xian. The Chin Dynasty used life size models in their tombs.; the Han Dynasty (roughly 200 BC- 200 AD) decided this was too costly and time consuming, so they used much smaller figures, full of life and interest.
There is one other aspect to this figure which intrigues me. Although she looks like a female dancer, it is also possible that she was not actually female. Male dancers did dress as females in the Han Dynasty. Her face is perhaps a bit more masculine than a female Chinese face, and her body is quite substantial. But female dancers certainly did performed during this time and it is quite possible that this dancer was plainer and more muscular. Which ever gender the dancer was, they had a wonderful sway and rhythm.
I have a certificate from the highly respected Hong Kong shop owner of 40 years experience. It has not been tested because of the expense involved and the shop owner felt it was completely unnecessary. But I have also been trained for a number of years by various expert shop keepers in Hong Kong, I was able to guide collectors and interior decorators to reliable stores and authentic items.
The figure is in very good condition. You can see tiny remains of roots in the clay, having been buried for such a long time in the earth.
The figure is 17½ inches high x 9 inches long (measuring from the base to the outstretched hand) x 5 inches deep. It weighs 5 lbs. 1 oz.
The figure comes with its own, bespoke acrylic stand measuring 7 inches x 7 inches x ½ inch in thickness.
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Ancient Chinese Han Dynasty, 25 AD-190 AD, Pottery Dancing Entertainer, Museum Quality
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