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Asian art

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Figure of a lady

25 CE-220 CE


Unknown Artist


With her hands politely clasped within the voluminous sleeves of her costume, this is among the finest of the Han dynasty figures in the collection. Her distinguished but humble demeanor suggests that she represents a courtly attendant. It is a figure of extraordinary grace and eloquent simplicity, characteristic of the sophisticated Han style. Typically such models were made from moulds, the parts then luted together and the details finished by hand before the firing process. The figure was then covered with a white slip, which served as a base for the detail painting of which only traces remain.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.81.

This is a superlative example of Han figural art. The garment, with its flaring bottom, and layers of undergarments revealed at the "v" opening at her neck, are characteristic of everyday Han dress.

Traces of red and blue (on her smart shoes) still remain apart from the white slip characteristic of these pieces. The hair, long and loosely caught at her back, is handled with the same attention to detail as the folds of the robes and the facial features.

excerpt from Jackie Menzies, 'Early Chinese Art', AGNSW, 1983. IX (cover illus.).


Other Title

Figure of a lady (mourner)

Place where the work was made



25 CE-220 CE

Media category


Materials used

earthenware with traces of pigment over white slip


42.7 cm


Gift of Mr Sydney Cooper 1962


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

  • Chinese Ceramics, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 11 Aug 1965–12 Sep 1965

  • Early Chinese art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Feb 1983–08 May 1983

Referenced in 8 publications


Edmund Capon AM, OBE and Jan Meek (Editors), Portrait of a Gallery, 'Asian Art', pg. 106-113, Sydney, 1984, 106 (colour illus.).

Edmund Capon, The Australian Antique Collector, 'Chinese tomb figures in the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 96-101, Chippendale, Jan 1981-Jun 1981, 98 (colour illus.). 5

Edmund Capon, The Connoisseur, 'Far Eastern Art in the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 22-29, London, May 1980, 24 (colour illus.).

Mr V V W Fretwell, Mr L G Harrison, Ivan McMeekin and J. Hepburn Myrtle (Compilators), Chinese ceramics, Sydney, 1965, 18, 34 (illus.). 14, plate no. 3

Jackie Menzies, Early Chinese Art, Sydney, 1983, (cover illus.) not paginated. IX. See 'Further Information' for text.

Jackie Menzies, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Early Chinese Art', pg. 18-29, Sydney, 1990, 20, 21 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Tomb Sculpture', Sydney, 2003, 81 (colour illus.).

Judith White, Look, 'Journey to the heart of China', pg. 17, Melbourne, Jun 1999, 17 (colour illus.).