Northern Wei Dynasty Court Attendant


A finely modelled hollow moulded pottery female figurine of a court attendant, portrayed standing, with one hand resting on her slightly protruding belly and one hidden in her vest’s long sleeve; the dress she is wearing, possibly a shenyi  or ruqun, consists of a long vest, tied to the waist and long, flaring sleeves. The most distinctive element of Northern Wei dresses were the collars, which appears to be much wider and open at the top compared earlier examples. She displays a high bun hairstyle and facial features appear designed with fine carvings, the mouth still retaining the original red pigment, which also still covers most of the upper part of his vest. The reverse is unworked. The original pigments would have been applied to the figure after firing, with the result that the paint would have been more prone to flaking. A hole to the right hand suggests that the figurine might have originally held an incense stick.

Date: Circa 386-534 AD
Period: Northern Wei
Provenance: The C. Roger Moss OBE collection. The late C. Roger Moss OBE was a renowned art collector who, throughout the years, thanks to his determination and enthusiasm, was able to create an outstanding collection of artworks, most prominently from China and the Orient, but also from other cultures.
Condition: Exceptional example, some earthly encrustations on the surface. Much of the original pigmentation still visible. The statuette has been mounted on a custom-made stand for display.


Since the Han Dynasty, it was common practice to bury terracotta miniature of utilitarian and ornamental objects with the deceased; such items are known as mingqi, “spirit utensils” or “vessels for ghosts”. Mingqi were offered to assist and help the deceased in the afterlife, and they would have been modelled in the shape of cooking utensils, miniature replicas of houses and temples, as well as a range of furniture and other items. Anthropomorphic and zoomorphic terracotta reproductions were popular too, designed to assist and entertain the deceased and to recreate the world of the living.

To discover more about the Roger Moss Collection, visit our Provenance Collection Page.

Weight 295 g
Dimensions H 16 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item, The Metropolitan Museum, item 28.106.5 .

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