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Anyang Era (approximately 1300 – 1050 B.C.)
Northern China
L : 6.5 cm W : 2.5 cm

Small grimacing jade masks, sometimes topped with sophisticated headgear, are attributed to the Longshan Culture (approximately 2000 – 1500 B.C.). Figures, standing or squatting, were sculpted in high relief or less frequently depicted on small bas-relief tablets, like this piece. Although relatively few in number, these date back to the Shang Era (approximately 1500 – 1050 B.C.).

The Cernuschi Museum’s piece shows figures surrounded by two parallel, incised features. This special characteristic is found on jades discovered in 1976 in the Anyang (Henan) site of Yinxu, in royal tomb number 5, the sepulchre of Fou Hao, wife of the monarch Wuding, dating back to the late 13th century. Pieces similar to this jade were found in two other tombs in Anyang from the Shang Era: a small figure in Houjiazhuang, and the profile of a head bedecked with a plume in Xiaotun.

The iconography of these more or less grimacing figures remains an enigma. The tradition of these small jade figures, sculpted in high relief, remained prominent among the Western Zhou.

Doris J. Dohrenwend recognised the Cernuschi Museum’s tablet as a piece characteristic of the Era of the Warring States (481-421 B.C.), by comparing it to the edge of a halberd, decorated with kneeling figures, kept at the Freer Gallery in Washington.

Auteur de la notice : Gilles Béguin
Collection : Shang Dynasty (about 1550-1050 B.C.)
Mode d'acquisition : Donation of Jean Daridan, 1947.
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