An Unusual Dark Grey Stone Head of a Female Attendant, Tang Dynasty (618-907), possibly Longmen Caves
Carved as if facing slightly to the right, with small chin, well-defined mouth and slightly open eyes below curved brows, the hair drawn up into two topknots, with remains of pigment and earth accretions, the back sheared off. 14 in. (35.5 cm.) high, stand. Estimate $20,000 - $30,000
Provenance: J.T. Tai & Co., New York, prior to 1975.
Notes: Fragments of secular figures within processions of donors are among the rarest surviving carvings removed from the Longmen grottoes, Henan province. This head of a young girl has her hair dressed in an elaborate double-topknot with looping braids which can be seen on contemporaneous Tang sancai wares, but which is clearly derived from Northern Wei prototypes, such as those on the famous panels of the processions of Emperor Wenzhao and Empress Xiaowen flanking the entrance to Cave 140, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, respectively. See S. Di, Comprehensive Illustrated Catalogue of Chinese Buddhist Statues in Overseas Collections, vol. II, Beijing, 2005, pp. 341-5. Retinues of female donors may be seen on caves executed during the Tang dynasty in historical photographs taken by Eduoard Chavannes in 1907. See Missions archeologiques francaises en Chine: Photographies et itineraires, 1907 - 1923, Paris, 2004, p. 69, which may be a view of the Southern Binyang Cave, Cave 159. Compare, also, a kneeling female donor in Niche 328, which also appears on the proper left wall of the cave entrance and facing in (thus to her left), illustrated in Complete Works of Statues in Longmen Grottoes, vol. 2, Beijing, 2002, p. 109, figs. 291-2; and another in Cave 362 and Niche 363, p. 133, fig. 356, and p. 141, fig. 381, respectively.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Art From The Arthur M. Sackler Collections. 18 March 2009 New York, Rockefeller Plaza www.christies.com Image Christie's Ltd 2009