Sancai procession

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Ming Dynasty, 16th - 17th century
Sancai glazed pottery
Figures: 48 cm, horse: 42 cm

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This miniature procession consists of nine attendants, a horse and a palanquin. The attendants wear green-glazed robes with long flowing sleeves, and the brown-glazed horse has a green saddlebag. Two figures in particular are distinguished by their dress, for each wears a unique robe, which differs in shape and color from the other attendants, and a different shaped hat. They both carry an object in their arms; one holds a box, the other a bowl. The tall rounded caps of the other attendants accentuate their dignified appearance. All the figures are standing on a raised pedestal, glazed in the same rich forest green and amber as the figures. The palanquin, the most important form of transportation for the elite in that time, is elegantly constructed with a black curved hip roof with a white diamond ornament, and glazed in the same green as the figures.

This type of ceramics is named Sancai, literally ‘three colours’. A white body with the characteristic green, amber and white lead-glaze is fired in kilns up to 900℃. The lead-oxide in the glaze, and added copper and iron, influenced the striking colours.

The glazed set is a product of the artistic revival that occurred throughout the Ming Dynasty; it reflects the attempt to restore the ‘purely Chinese’ artistic genres, in combination with Confucian standards and style. The realistic depiction of daily life, both social and political, became popular. Processions as the one represented here were held for rituals like funerals and marriages, and for the paying of tax and tribute to the emperor by the provincial lords. The size and splendour of the processions depended on the nature of the ceremony and the status of the individuals that were being honored or that were in the processions.


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