The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China (206 BC–AD 220 ), and its art is notable for aiming to give form to everyday people and objects. Grave goods were an important status symbol in ancient China, so the affluent and important would be accompanied in their travels through the afterlife with numerous depictions of people, items and animals. Such terracotta figures were made for the service and entertainment of the owner, ensuring that their journey in the underworld was a happy one.The art of the Han dynasty is largely decorative, a shift away from the functional, ritualistic art of the previous Qin dynasty. This statuette was likely a ‘mingqi’, a burial figurine, viewed as a sort of utensil for the afterlife, and usually depicting everyday objects and people, like dancers, court attendants, and servants. Mingqi figurines of court attendants, soldiers and guards would have been placed in the tomb with the deceased to ensure protection and service in the afterlife.
Large Han Polychrome Terracotta Figurine of a Male Court Attendant
A finely moulded and coloured polychrome terracotta figurine depicting a Han male court attendant wearing a typical Han court robe with wide, flared sleeves and tapering trousers with bloomer terminals. His left hand is concealed under the sleeve, whilst the right forms a fist in front. He wears the traditional Han Dynasty court attire, known as shenyi, consisting of a long vest, thick collar and tied at the waist with a belt. Rich folds and detailed drapery on his garment are naturally rendered by confident engraving lines. Under his prominent official Han hat, his facial features are clearly engraved, with sensual lips painted in pinkish-red pigments. Given the perforation presented by his hand, he would have held a ceremonial weaponry in his hand.
Period: The Han Dynasty
Provenance: From the collection of a West Country gentleman, formed in 1970s.
Condition: Very good condition, with original pigments visible to the surface.