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Kneeling Woman


Artwork Details

Kneeling Woman
early 7th century
earthenware with mineral pigment
5 11/16 in x 2 11/16 in x 2 11/16 in (14.45 cm x 6.83 cm x 6.83 cm)
Gift of Willard A. and Marybelle Bouchard Hanna

On Display

Not currently on display


The funerary figure is in a humble pose revealing her subservient position. Her official-looking costume, on the other hand, indicates her status of management rank.

Subject Matter:

An earthenware polychrome mingqi  (明器)("bright object") figure of a court lady of the late Sui Dynasty (581-618) to early Tang Dynasty (618-906). Her sumptuous robes and hairstyle was in high fashion during the 7th century.  This figure would have been included in a tomb to accompany the deceased in the afterlife, and was indicative of the wealth and status of the occupant. Her posture suggests that she may have been a musician holding a musical instrument.  Most court musicians during the Tang were beautiful women playing in a seated position in groups of four or five.

Since the Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BCE), ceramic figures have been used to replace human sacrifice in burial practices as mingqi as a way to provide for the deceased.  Mingqi could include houses, towers, gates, granaries, livestock pens, chicken coops, wells, cooking stoves, storage vessels, dishes, incense burners, and lamps.  Figures could include horses, dogs, anthropomorphic animals and people, such as officials, guardians, servants, and entertainers. By the Han dynasty, they also included representations of common people engaged in the activities that consumed their daily lives, such a cooking. The tombs in southern provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi have revealed a vast array of figures in playful and humorous poses.  As grave goods, these mingqi included everything one would need to ensure a comfortable transition into the afterlife. The number of ceramic mingqi items in a tomb could reach numbers of a few to several hundred objects.

Physical Description:

An earthenware figure of a kneeling woman wearing a long dress with an empire waist, her hair coiffed high upon her head, and arms raised as if once holding something.  It is covered in white slip and polychrome mineral pigment. 

Usage Rights:

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