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Subject:Tang-style figure odd smell and colour
Posted By: Anne Sun, Feb 19, 2023 IP:


I was told this was 19th c Japanese but I think it is a copy of a Tang figure. It has a strong smell a bit like cement. The interior is hollow up to the neck (photographed with flash), the piece is encrusted with something, some of which is white. There was a bit of mud on the outside, which came off very easily with my finger.

The red and black are not glazed. The surface has mainly a sandy feel, but smooth in places. I am concerned the smell and the strange green which resembles patination, may indicate something unhealthy for humans! Is that possible?

It is 15.5 cms high, weighs just under 300g. That is roughly the same as some porcelain figures I have had.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Kind regards,

Subject:Re: Tang-style figure odd smell and colour
Posted By: Robert Sun, Feb 19, 2023

Just my opinion but the figure looks too crude, the paint too bright, and the colors off for a Tang dynasty figure. Most likely a modern piece, which was artificially aged. I think the "smell test" - i.e., the smell of a pottery item when wet - is basically nonsense and cannot be used to estimate age. I am aware of only two reliable tests for determining age of an earthenware piece, the TL test that measures time after last firing, and another test that measures water of hydration (chemically bound water) and the re-hydration rate after drying in a high temperature oven.

Subject:Re: Tang-style figure odd smell and colour
Posted By: Anne Mon, Feb 20, 2023

Thanks for your reply. I am very suspicious about this figure, especially as the strange smell is there all the time. It is not particularly absorbant either.
That turquoise-green colour also seems wrong. I assume it is unlikely to be anything toxic?

Subject:Re: Tang-style figure odd smell and colour
Posted By: Tom Aspden Mon, Feb 20, 2023

I would agree, the face to me is particularly telling. Even though the face is lacking in detail (another deciding factor) it manages to present similarities to the 20th century stylised/generic Chinese female face. My guess would be that the soily dirty coating is some sort of fake aging technique, perhaps it was even buried to get this effect!

I'd be willing to guess that the green wasn't harmful, don't quote me on that, but I haven't heard of such a case of poisonous glazes/paints in ceramics.

Subject:Re: Tang-style figure odd smell and colour
Posted By: Anne Tue, Feb 21, 2023

Thanks,Tom. That is good to know especially about the paint. That was my main concern in returning it and now I won't worry about it.

I will send it back and feel confident in telling the seller what it is now that you have both confirmed what I suspected.

I appreciate the help and hope my thanks get through to you.

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