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Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) China
Head of a military official 1085 Place made: Henan province, China
Materials & Technique: sculptures, limestone
Dimensions: 68.0 h x 31.0 w x 33.0 d cm ; weight 132 kg
Acknowledgement: Gift of TT Tsui, Hong Kong, through the National Gallery of Australia Foundation 1995
Accession No: NGA 95.573
  • The chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • likely created at or near Yong Yuling, Gongyi, Henan Province, China, 1085
  • acquired by TT Tsui, Hong Kong, between 1981-93 and 1995
  • who gave it to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1995

Originally part of a monumental statue, this head of an official is typical of late Song to early Ming-dynasty sculpture. With stern features and a piercing gaze, the official wears a hat bearing the faint remains of a cartouche. The figure in the cartouche is possibly a rabbit, suggesting the image was associated with Daoism. Images of the twelve animal symbols of the zodiac were a popular part of Daoist imagery. Long rows of large stone sculptures of civil and military dignitaries lined the avenues to the great Song and Ming-dynasty tombs. They demonstrate a dedication to administration in the afterlife, as well as in the living world.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label