Pair of Tang Female Dancers

£ 2,000.00

A beautiful and delightfully matching pair of Tang Dynasty Dancers, displaying an exquisite sense of movement and their original pigmentation.

The dancers are incredibly fluid in their depiction, and realistic in their stance, though highly stylised in form. They dance with long, draped sleeves that add a further sense of animation and dimension. Their long, flowing dresses are typical of the period; their shoes, just visible beneath the folds of the dress, seem to be stylised birds, with small beaks and eyes. Perhaps they represent doves, as these birds acted as symbols of long life and fidelity in Ancient China: the fact that doves are monogamous alludes further to this fidelity. The women’s facial features are accentuated with black and red paint, and their hair is highly stylised. This hairstyle, comprising two buns worn high on the head, was traditional during the Tang period.

Pieces of this kind would have been painted after firing, thereby allowing the craftsmen to use a wider range of colours. However, the technique often meant that the paint was poorly fixed to the clay, and thus prone to flaking. These pieces display fantastic retention of pigment, with the vibrant blues, reds, and delicately painted flowers on the skirts still visible.

It is likely that these figures were grave goods. The dancers are stylistically modelled to impart a sense of grace and elegance for the entertainment of the owner in the afterlife. Grave goods were an important status symbol in Ancient China, with a variety of people and objects joining the deceased in the journey to the afterlife. People could be buried with any number of different items, as diverse as pets to protective towers.

NB. Price is for the pair of dancers. One of the dancers is accompanied with a positive Oxford Authentication thermoluminescence report.

Date: Circa 618-907 AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
Condition: Good condition; repairs to arms of both figures, much of original paint still visible; some mild earthly encrustations.


In the late 6th Century, China was reunified under the Sui Dynasty. The Seven Books of Music were then created from the music and dance of the various peoples from areas of unified China. The books were expanded later in the Sui Dynasty to include the music and dance of the Shule and Samarkand, thus creating the Nine Books of Music. This was finally expanded to form ten books under Emperor Taizong during the Tang dynasty, and it is to this period that these dancers are dated.  The collections of dances performed at the imperial court reflected the diverse and cosmopolitan nature of the Tang Dynasty’s influences. Music and dance from India, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and other states bordering Tang China would have been performed at the imperial capital, Chang’an, with performers and dancers in native costume. The Tang imperial court sought out the top dancing talent from around the country to perform the dances.

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

Weight 1126.1 g
Dimensions W 10.2 x H 24 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item, Christie’s, Sale 11928, Lot 1480.

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