Tomb figure of a seated woman holding a bird


Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, first half of 8th century
Earthenware with sancai (three-color) lead-silicate glaze
H x W x D (overall): 40.6 x 17.9 x 15.6 cm (16 x 7 1/16 x 6 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Sculpture

Tomb figure: woman

bird, China, earthenware, Tang dynasty (618 - 907), woman, WWII-era provenance

From 1936 to 1949
C.T. Loo & Company, New York from October 1936 [1]

Spink & Son, London [2]

In the 1970s
E.C. Christofides, Greece, purchased from Spink & Son, in the early 1970s [3]

Kochukyo Co., Tokyo [4]

To 1995
Anthony J. Hardy, London and Hong Kong, to September 1995 [5]

Sale, New York, Christie's, The Hardy Collection of Early Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from the Sze Yuan Tang, September 21, 1995, lot 77 (ill. on the cover): "A Fine Sancai-glazed Pottery Figure of a Court Lady"

From 1995 to 2001
Eskenazi Ltd. (Giuseppe Eskenazi), London, purchased at Christie’s Sale on September 21, 1995 [6]

From 2001
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Eskenazi Ltd. on July 27 2001 [7]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. MT 29: "Lady seated on a stool holding a bird in her right hand. Pottery three color glaze on the robe, the head unglazed. TANG Dynasty (618-907 A. D.)," Frank Caro Archive, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, copy in object file. According to an annotation on the stockcard, the object was inventoried in October 1936. The object was included in C. T. Loo & Co., Exhibition of Chinese Arts: Special Sale (November 1, 1941-April 30, 1942), no. 470 (ill.) and C. T. Loo & Co., An Exhibition of Figures in Chinese Art (New York, April 1946), cat. 10, pl. 2. On February 11, 1949, it was sold to "Miss Morrison."

[2] According to information provided by Giuseppe Eskenazi, in a letter dated April 4, 2001 and correspondence with Philip Constantinidi, Eskenazi Ltd, January 19, 2012, in object file.

[3] According to information provided by Giuseppe Eskenazi and Philip Constantinidi, see note 2.

[4] According to information provided by Giuseppe Eskenazi, see note 2.

[5] See Christie’s, New York, The Hardy Collection of Early Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art from the Sze Yuan Tang, auction catalogue (Christie’s, New York, September 21, 1995), lot 77.

[6] See Sarah Wong, “Saleroom Report,” Oriental Art 41, 4 (Winter 1995/96), p. 61 (ill.)

[7] See Eskenazi Ltd.’s Invoice, dated July 27, 2001, in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

Kochukyo Co. Ltd. established 1924
Spink & Son Ltd.
C.T. Loo & Company active 1908-1950
Eskenazi Ltd. Founded 1923
Anthony Hardy born circa 1939
E. C. Christofides


This sensitively observed figure of a court woman offers insights into the cosmopolitan, wealthy lifestyle of the Tang dynasty (618-907) elite in the first half of the eighth century. Made as a burial good, this sculpture reflects competition among the Tang aristocracy to display numerous expensively crafted earthenware figures in funerary processions--grander objects indicated higher family status.

Early eighth-century potters achieved a high point by imbuing ceramic figures with considerable naturalism and fidelity, despite using molds. Here, the double topknot and tie-dyed pattern on the woman's jacket realistically illustrate Tang fashion. The songbird she gazes upon alludes to Tang fascination with birds imported from India and the tropics.

Published References
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 72-73.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum