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200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415.581.3500
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Artwork

Dancer, approx. 618–700

Men and women of the Tang dynasty (618–906) of China were very interested in all things foreign. They often dressed in foreign fashions, and welcomed foreign dance and music at their parties and court entertainments. The single female figure has her hair tied in two large loops. Her upper garment has elaborate winged shoulders and a raised collar leading to a V-shaped front. Her shoes have elaborate, up-turned toes. Her elongated sleeves are representative of the court fashions at that time. This woman is performing what appears to be a sedate dance; however, written descriptions indicate that many such performances were anything but sedate. Fashion changed remarkably quickly during the first century of the Tang dynasty. Notice her large, puffy shoes. The slender, elaborately coiffured woman depicted here would have looked out of place among the plump women of style of the 700s.

How was this object made?

This figure is decorated with colored pigments applied after firing. Since the paint colors did not have to withstand firing, a wider assortment of colors could be used. However these colors are not bound to the ceramic, and are therefore susceptible to flaking. The three-colored glaze technique (sancai) did not lend itself to creating skin tone colors, and the maker of these figures may have preferred the wider palette of colors offered by painting directly on the low-fired earthenware.