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Lian with acrobats

Lian with acrobats

Western Han Era (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.)
Terra cotta with red and black highlights
H : 20.7 cm L : 14 cm W : 10.5 cm
M.C. 9799 – M.C. 9800

During the Han Era (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.), one of the themes represented through funerary furniture was that of banquets enlivened by orchestras, dancers and different attractions. Acrobats or contortionists which form the handles of this lian are part of this funerary iconography. Terra cotta lian were intended for the deceased, imitating the real containers used to hold fermented drinks.

Generally with a lid and three small feet, often in the shape of a bear, the lian was originally a vessel for wine. Examples have been found in gilded and plain bronze. The lian also serves as a make-up box, as lacquered wood versions have been found in tombs from the Warring States and later the Han, particularly in the south, in the Chu Kingdom, containing a mirror, an object for personal grooming, next to small lacquered boxes and wood combs. Shown here in terra cotta and resting on three small feet, these lian do not have lids. One is smooth and the other, higher, is encircled at top and below by two bands in relief; each supports two acrobats balancing on their hands. During firing, their hands were fused to the rim of the vessel, showing thus an original union of two apparently mixed elements.

This type of lian with handles in the shape of acrobats is rather rare, even though several examples were found in the Luoyang tombs of Henan, in Mianonaxin and Qilihe (near Luoyang).

Auteur de la notice : Gilles Béguin
Collection : Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220)
Mode d'acquisition : Purchase, 1987.

Lian aux acrobates
© Musée Cernuschi