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Funerary Figure

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
This rare wooden figure is from the Chu culture in southern China, as is the fierce mythological guardian figure with antler horns, also in this gallery. The tomb figure was carved from a single piece of wood, with chisel marks clearly visible on the lower part of the figure. Arms carved from separate pieces of wood, now missing, were attached to the figure with wooden pins inserted through the drilled holes. There are remnants of silk fabric on the body, perhaps part of the original clothing worn by the figure at the time of burial. Fragments of fibers representing hair are found on the hairline and top of the head, and there are also traces of lacquer pigments.
MEDIUM Wood, traces of textile and polychrome decoration
  • Place Made: Hubei province, China
  • DATES 3rd-2nd century B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Han dynasty
    PERIOD Warring States Period
    DIMENSIONS 22 3/4 × 3 5/8 × 3 5/8 in. (57.8 × 9.2 × 9.2 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, West, 2nd floor (China)
    EXHIBITIONS
    ACCESSION NUMBER 1997.22
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Jacques Barrere
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Funerary Figure, 3rd-2nd century B.C.E. Wood, traces of textile and polychrome decoration, 22 3/4 × 3 5/8 × 3 5/8 in. (57.8 × 9.2 × 9.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Jacques Barrere, 1997.22. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1997.22_front_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 1997.22_front_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2015
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Chu culture, Yutaishan, Jiangling. Stylized figure of a man carved from a single piece of wood, the bottom showing the approximate circumference of the original branch or trunk, the figure roughly formed as a cone tapering slightly without anatomical detail to the area of the chest. Chisel and/or knife marks are clearly visible on the lower part of the figure. The shoulders are schematically modeled, with the upper arms cut at an angle and drilled with one hole for attaching the arms, now missing, the proper left hole open, the proper right hole retaining a wood or bamboo pin. The relatively large head sits on an elongated neck, with the features schematically modeled in low, sharp relief, with a small mouth, triangular nose, sweeping curves for the eyebrows, and ears set high and back n the head. The hairline appears as a shallow cut across the forehead, with traces of black clearly visible on the top and sides of the head. A large folded or knotted piece of silk (?) fabric, stained black, approximately 7 inches from the base. Other small remnants of fabric and/or cords (?) are visible in various places of the lower part of the figure, possibly remnants of the costume placed on the figure at the time of burial. Fragments of fibers remain in the cut at the hairline and fibers representing the hair remain adhered to the head. Condition: The figure is generally intact. It is currently mounted on a flat metal display base with a beveled edge and a metal (?) dowel that extends an unknown distance up into the bottom portion of the figure. There is one area of fill on the chest, and another possible fill on the top of the head. The figure has been conserved by the Nucleart Regional Conservation Studio, Grenoble France and materials provided by the donor detail this conservation procedure. These include 1) report entitled "Annexe 3: Collection du Musee Guimet" (in French bound with reprints of two articles by Jean-Paul Deroches: "Les Sculptures du royaume de Chu," "revue du Louvre," 1-1997 (Fevrier): 13-15; and "La Memoire du Chu," "Connaissance des Arts," 537, Mars 1997: 40-47); and 2) a report entitled "Traitement," in French, detailing the treatment of wooden objects soaked with water. The date and source for the figure is detailed in the description of another figure from the same group, offered for sale by Jacques Barrere, with no date or page number on the catalogue, noting that one figure from the group has been carbon-14 dated to the period.
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     <em>Funerary Figure</em>, 3rd-2nd century B.C.E. Wood, traces of textile and polychrome decoration, 22 3/4 × 3 5/8 × 3 5/8 in. (57.8 × 9.2 × 9.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Jacques Barrere, 1997.22. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1997.22_front_PS9.jpg)