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Antique Glazed Mingqi of Two Female Attendants
Item No. 5492

1368-1644 Ming , N/A, China
6" x 1.5" x 1.5"
( 15.24 x 3.81 x 3.81 cm)
(H x W x D)

This pair of Ming Dynasty female attendents are beautifully crafted. Such pieces are called minggi, ceramic pieces made especially for burial with the deceased in a tomb to bring to him and his soul in the afterlife all the comforts he or she had in life--servants, food, his horse, his home, livestock, his bed, chairs, stools, the band that played at his funeral and more. These burial pieces would be made in miniature in ceramics mostly with the use of molds, and the two halves would be luted together buy hand. Sometimes the heads were also mold-made, and sometimes, especially in the case of the rich, portraits of family members and servants would be made and attached to the mold-made bodies. The quality of the mingqi depended on the skill of the craftsman who moulded the pieces together by hand. Were the two halves visible or concealed in the luting process? Is the head securely and flawlessly attached to the body? Are the faces believable as real human beings? Has the piece been fired well so that the painting or glaze will last? Is the painting faithful in terms of being a true representation of a servant's face and do the facial details seem correct? Do the glazed colors mesh well both with each other and the painting?

One can conclude from the questions above that such pieces were completed in three ways--some were detailed using only paint; some were completed with the use of glazes; and some were finished with the use of both painting and glazes, as these female attandants were.

These mold-made attendants are presented here with a green iron glaze that was applied over their coats, which fall directly down below the knees but above the ankles in thick vertical folds. Some of the green glaze has dripped further down the legs and onto the square base upon which the attendants stand, and the Chinese delighted in these kinds of accidents. A second yellow drip glaze was used for the "bun" at the chest where the attendants' hands come together and for the belt that binds the robes at the waist and hangs down between the legs. Both heads and stands were left unglazed, but the heads were covered with a white slip and painted in black to highlight the physiognomy of the attendants and to color their hair, which is modeled in the popular double-bun style. The combination of glaze and painting works well together here, and the painted black highlights on the physiognomy made by the mold combine to demonstrate that both pieces were made from the same mold but that they are believable images of contemporary Tang China.

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