Dalle gravée

Vers 700
Pierre, Gravé = incisé
Elément d'architecture
H. 154 x L. 54.5 x P. 10.8 cm
Don manuel : Beurdeley, Jean-Michel
M.C. 9945 a

These carved slabs and pilasters displayed at the museum evoke the wall of a tomb chamber housing the coffin of a Tang dynasty dignitary (618-907). Yet nothing proves that these various elements come from the same ensemble. They bear many similarities, however, to the slabs and pillars forming the chamber in the last section of the tomb of the prince Li Chongrun, or Prince Yide (682-701), who was forced to commit suicide through the treacherous actions of Empress Wu Zetian (r. 690-705). This tomb, built in 706 in Qianling (Qianxian), not far from the capital Chang’an in the province of Shaanxi, has an arrangement similar to that of the slabs in the Cernuschi Museum.
The pillars have vertical grooves into which the upright plaques were set. A chamber wall has been reconstructed at the museum. The decorated elements on either side suggest a more complex arrangement, however. A young man is depicted on the front side of the slab MC 9945a. The composition is surrounded by a carved band of foliage. On the back, a very slender young woman forms a close pendant, in terms of size and carving technique, to another young man, flanked by two shrubs (MC. 9945c).
Another plaque (MC. 9945b), executed in a cruder manner, depicts a young woman with a plumper physique. This feminine ideal in vogue in the 8th century, adopted by the imperial concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei) at court from 745 to 756, contrasts with that of the woman on the back of plaque MC. 9945a, suggesting its later date.
The male servants wear jackets with wide lapels, like the mingqi dated 706 or 711 found in Prince Zhanghuai’s tomb in Qianxian, Shaanxi. The baggy trousers are pictured in the famous wall paintings decorating the walls of the entrance ramp to the tomb of Prince Yide, also dated 706.
Tomb chamber slabs, tomb doors and sarcophagi with carved decorations are relatively numerous from the first part of the Tang period, before the An Lushan Rebellion in 755. Besides the Prince Yide tomb chamber, there is the tomb of Wei Dong, who died in 692, the door of the tomb of the imperial prince Zhanghuai, another victim of Wu Zetian, the sarcophagus of Princess Yongtai, dated 706, a tomb door in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and two door panels that were exhibited at the Gisèle Croës Gallery in Brussels in 1955.
The painted foliage decoration can be compared to the carved edges of several early 8th-century stelae in the Kongmiao (Confucian Temple) in Xi'an. With the exception of the slab MC. 9945b, from a later period, this impressive ensemble probably dates from the early 8th century.

Reference(s) : Gilles Béguin, Activités du musée Cernuschi, Arts asiatiques, 1998, t.53, p.89-92.
The Quest for Eternity: Chinese Ceramic Sculptures from the People's Republic of China, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1987, p.132, n°65.
Shaanxi Sheng Wenwu guanli weiyuanhui, "Chang'an xian Nanliwang cun Tang Wei Dong mu fajue ji" (Rapport sur la fouille de la tombe de Wei Dong - de la dynastie - des Tang à Nanliwang dans le district de Chang'an), Wenwu 1959, n°8, p. 8-18.
Trésors d'art de la Chine, (Exposition Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 1982, p.216, n°58.
Mary Tregear, L'Art chinois, Londres, Thames and Hudson, 1991, p.98.
Jean Fontein - Wu Tung, Unearthing China's Past, Boston, The Museum of Fine Arts, 1973, p. 154-157, n°74.
Osvald Sirèn, La Sculpture chinoise du Ve au XIVe siècle, t.III, Paris/Bruxelles, Librairie nationale d'Art et d'Histoire G. Van Oest, 1926, p.40-41, pl.441.
Art chinois, Musée Cernuschi, acquisitions 1993-2004; Paris-Musées/Findakly, 2005, p. 94,95,96,97.