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Berwald Oriental Art

Pair of Warriors
Tang Dynasty (618-907)
Earthenware with Pigments and Gilt
Height: 36 inches (91.5 cm) and 37 inches (94 cm)

Each figure similarly modeled, standing upright atop a rockwork plinth in contrapposto. Their arms are bent at the waist; the clenched fists once held spears or staffs. The figures are attired in resplendent military dress which conveying the formality of their important protective function. One with more Chinese features with his hair pulled up into a high top knot; the other with western features and a soft helmet with flaps around the cheek. Their unique characteristics highlight their individuality. Cold painted pigments have been decoratively applied in an impressive array of vivid color and intricate patterns that help differentiate the many layers of their lavish armor. Of particular note is the lively use of diapers such as the play of the cloth that sweeps out from under the more constricting top layer of armor, the generous application of gilt highlights, and the use of the mountain scale pattern around their midriffs. The height of ancient Chinese armor development is perhaps the Shan Wen Kai or "Mountain Pattern Armor", such as in the present example. It appears during the Tang Dynasty and is made from a multitude of small pieces of steel that are shaped to resemble the Chinese character for the word shan (Mountain): mountains being regarded as a critical source of spiritual power. The pieces are then interlocked and riveted to a cloth or leather backing. It effectively covers the torso, the shoulders and the thighs while remaining comfortable and flexible enough to allow movement. Such costly armor was available only to a very high ranking few and to wear it would have been considered an honor.

all text, images Berwald Oriental Art

 

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