Ming Dynasty Glazed Attendants and Palanquin


A very fine set of six glazed Ming Dynasty earthenware figures, together with an elaborate palanquin. Four court attendants are poised with one arm bent at the elbow and raised to carry the palanquin over their shoulders. Fringed headpieces sit high on their heads, leaving visible their facial features, rendered in a naturalistic manner and portraying a solemn expression. Each figure is presented wearing the traditional Ming Dynasty court attire, consisting of long flowing robes tied at the waist. Partly glazed in green and yellow, their garments display vibrant colours, covered by a black unglazed vest. The heavy palanquin presents a similar polychromatic glaze and is further adorned by an elaborate slated roof, presenting florid scrolls emphasised by unglazed red pigment. A male figure sits within it; a long green and yellow glazed robe covers his body. He wears a wu sha mao (乌纱帽), a traditional hat which reveals his higher social status. The procession is accompanied by a musician. Portrayed in a similar court attire, he holds a Suona (嗩吶) in his hands. First appeared during the Han Dynasty, the instrument originated in the Middle East and was widely used during processions and military functions.

Figures: Circa L 7cm x H 20.5cm each; Palanquin: Circa L 9cm x H 22cm

N.B. Price is per set.

Date: Circa AD 1368–1644
Period: Ming Dynasty
Condition: Very good condition, with bright vivid glaze and additional cold-painted detailing still remaining. Some loss of pigment.

In stock

Porcelain was at the heart of Ming Dynasty and the history of the Ming period, its raise, expansion and subsequent decline, can be traced throughout. Similar to the Renaissance in Europe, the Ming Dynasty signed a period of artistic and literary prosperity in China with porcelain being its most recognisable and admired production. A succession of seventeen emperors governed a population which saw a drastic increase during nearly 300 years of relative peace and stability. This, together with the Dynasty’s economic success, explains the culture’s artistic explosion and innovation. Innumerable kilns across China, from family workshops to factories, made a great diversity of ceramics to supply the market. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the imperial factory was established at Jingdezhen, which, aside from supplying porcelain for domestic and court use, began large-scale production for export to Europe under the reign of the Wanli Emperor (1573-1620). In addition to the most recognisable blue and white porcelains, innovations appeared throughout the Ming Dynasty, such as doucai (鬥彩, contending colours) in the Chenghua period (成化, 1465–1488) and wucai (五彩, five-colour) in the Wanli period (萬歷, 1573–1620) among the many.

Terracotta moulded figures of people and animals were meant to be grave goods placed in tombs. It was believed that these figures would serve and assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqi (冥器) in Chinese and usually depict servants and court attendants, soldiers, musicians and dancers, and different animals. As in life, attendant figures were supposed to stay nearby their master, waiting to fulfil the desires and needs of the deceased. They were lined outside the tomb before the coffin was taken inside and then placed and arranged inside the tomb. The size and number of the figures in a grave depended on the rank of the deceased. These figures would have been displayed amongst the processional group within a tomb, most likely before a sedan chair or palanquin and before the musician figures. They would have served a ceremonial purpose – to announce the arrival of the tomb occupant. The palanquin, likewise, would have been used in the next life, carrying the deceased on his journey.

To discover more about Chinese terracotta statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.

Weight 2850 g


Pottery and Porcelain



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