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Orchestra of eight horsewomen-musicians

Orchestra of eight horsewomen-musicians

Early 8th century, Tang Dynasty (618 – 907)
Polychrome terra cotta
M.C. 2001-11 − M.C.2001-18

M.C.2001-11 :  H : 33.3cm  L : 29cm  D : 10.9cm, M.C.2001-12 :  H : 32.3cm  L : 29.4cm  D : 10.6cm, M.C.2001-13 :  H : 31.9cm  L : 28.3cm  D : 10.9cm, M.C.2001-14 :  H : 32.3cm  L : 29cm  D : 10.8cm, M.C.2001-15 :  H : 31.6cm  L : 26.7cm  D : 10.5cm, M.C.2001-16 :  H : 33.6cm  L : 30.6cm  D : 10cm, M.C.2001-17 :  H : 32.4cm  L : 31.1cm  D : 10.7cm, M.C.2001-18 :  H : 32.7cm  L : 29.1cm  D :10.6cm



Within the Cernuschi Museum’s collection, these seven young women each play a different instrument: side blown flute with a vertical opening (dizi), small harp (konghou), transverse flute (hengdi), irregular shaped lute (pipa), drum-hourglass (yaogu), pan flute (paixiao), mouth organ with a curved mouthpiece (sheng). The eighth horsewoman, without an instrument, could have originally had an element that is now missing, perhaps a large harp, mounted on a support that could have left a hollow trace, visible on the right thigh.

These horsewomen, wearing western-inspired clothing (huyi), have round heads with full cheeks. The features still resemble those of the Shaanxi peasants. It foreshadows the full-figured beauty made fashionable, in the middle of the 8th century, by the concubine Yang Yuhuan. Their hair is arranged into two braids, lifted as high as their temples in a boyish style. Eyes incised with simple lines and small mouths give each a different expression, though all are smiling and pleasant.

By their size, the treatment of horses and their beige, orange, carmine, black and green polychromy, these statuettes bring to mind the group of female horse riders-musicians discovered in 1991 in Xinzhuxiang, outside of Xi’an, from the tomb built between 689 – 690 for Yu Yin (who died in 689), a high court official, and his wife Princess Jinxiang (who died in 722), granddaughter of Gaozu, the founder of the dynasty.

This exceptional donation makes quite an impression within the museum’s set of mingqi from the Tang Dynasty. The delightful set of female horse riders-musicians has since constituted the main attraction in the first Tang room.

Auteur de la notice : Gilles Béguin
Collection : Tang Dynasty (618-907)
Mode d'acquisition : Donation of the Dr Stephen Zuellig and Mr Gilbert Zuellig, 2001.

Orchestre de huit cavalières-musiciennes
© Musée Cernuschi