A Group of Three Painted Gray Pottery Entertainers

Warring States, 451-221 BC / Zhou Dynasty 周 (1050-221 BC)

9 ½ inches high (tallest)

Provenance: Private West Coast Collection, USA

Christie’s New York, 3 December 1992, lot 216

Exhibited: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1996-2010 (temporary loan)




Two figures standing and one seated, painted in black, grey and white pigments, and each modeled with high cheekbones, long noses, and pouting lips highlighted with red pigment, each with their hair tied in a high topknot. These remarkable and rare figures, presumably representing entertainers at court, and would have been placed in the burial chamber, along with other recognizable retinues or objects.

For a similar group of painted singers and musicians excavated from a 4th century BC tomb in Zhangqiu, in Shangdong province, see A.F. Howard et al, Chinese Sculpture, Yale University Press, 2006. A group of bronze human-form supports dated to the early Warring States period excavated in 1972 at Fenshuiling, Changzhi, Shanxi province, now in the Shanxi Provincial Museum with similar features and costume to our three examples is illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji – Gongyi meishubian, vol. 5 (Bronze), p. 23, pl. 62


The result of Oxford Thermoluminescence, no. 666e29 is consistent with the dating of these figures