Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
These small, delicate, yet animated, figurines of court musicians reflect a culture’s social and spiritual beliefs and the Tang Dynasty’s appreciation and cultivation of the arts. Indeed, this era from the 7th and 8th centuries is often referred to as “the golden age of literature and art” in China.
The tomb figures reflect all aspects of Tang social and ritual life. Soldiers, cooks, storytellers, dancers and musicians are but a few of the many subjects placed in tombs both to protect and assist the deceased in the afterlife.
Here seven female musicians, in flowing robes, presumably play before a royal entourage. Rounded faces with large eyes, graceful eyebrows and tiny mouths are characteristic of the Tang style. The scale, the modeling and the theme all exude a sense of refinement and cultivation.
A poem by one of the great poets of the Tang Dynasty addresses a court musician… similar, perhaps, to one seated here. He wrote:
I often saw you in the mansion of Prince Ch’i, And many times I heard you play In the hall of Ts’ui the ninth Just now in Chiang-nan, the scene is so lovely, As blossoms fall, so do we meet again!
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