Central Asian Antiquities

Ladies in a garden

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Ladies in a garden
7th - 8th Century A.D.

Place of origin: Astana, Xinjiang People's Republic of China
Materials: Silk Painting
Dimensions: 37.5 x 54 cm
Acc. No. (a) Ast. iii. 4. 010 b-j (2003/17/354)
                     (b) Ast. iii. 4. 010.a (2003/17/355)

Fragment of a charmingly painted panel of the well bedecked ladies with attendants in a garden. The faces of the ladies are decorated with beauty marks in red. Their coiffure is elaborately decorated with golden hair-pins. One of the attendants is seen with a musical instrument. It is a masterpiece of the T'ang style (618 - 906 A.D.) of secular paintings on silk.'The general scheme of the painting seems clear. It was a frieze-like composition, whether meant to be rolled or not, divided into compartments by strips of thin brown brocade pasted on to the silk, and framed at top and bottom by a narrow border of the same material.

One of the upright strips has been preserved entirely, so that the height of the picture is known to be about 21 in. we can also tell that the width of one compartment, and possibly was about 8 1/2 in. In each division was a group of figures standing under a tree. Some of these were ladies with attendant pages, others were dancers and musicians.

The painting shows T'ang ideal of full, rounded cheeks, small mouth with full, red lips, and rather massive figure. Portrayed with same T'ang conventions, such as the two or three lines indicating the curves of the throat and there is a remarkable similarity in the heavily heaped-up coiffure, with a big knot in front over the forehead. In pictures we notice the same fashion of painting spots of colour on forehead and cheek. In the secular painting of this period, there was a common ideal of style which pervaded China from east to west and imposed itself even outside the Empire, and in these fragments a genuine echo of the central school of Chinese painting is revealed as it was in the early eighth century.

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