Upon leading a victorious rebellion against the
foreign Mongul rulers of the Yuan Dynasty, a
peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang seized control of
China and founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368.
Culturally, the greatest innovation of the Ming
Dynasty was the introduction of the novel.
Developed from the folk tales of traditional
storytellers, these works were transcribed in the
everyday vernacular language of the people.
Advances in printmaking and the increasing
population of urban dwellers largely contributed
to the success of these books. Architecturally,
the most famous monument of the Ming Dynasty
is surely the complex of temples and palaces
known as the Forbidden City that was
constructed in Beijing after the third ruler of the
Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yongle, moved the
capital there. Today, the Forbidden Palace
remains one of the hallmarks of traditional
Chinese architecture and is one of the most
popular tourist destinations in the vast nation.
This stunning set of three seated female figures
dates from this exciting period of artistic
achievement. Each figure is seated on a bench,
which is raised up on a high plinth, decorated
with low relief carvings of a pair of scissors and a
comb. The women, dressed in elaborate robes
with wide sleeves, hold small dishes in their
hands which may represent offering bowls of
some kind. Their hair is arranged in a tight bun
which crowns their head. Considerable traces of
the original polychromy survive including blues,
greens, reds and a golden yellow. The faces
have been painted white to stand out against the
vibrant rainbow of colours which adorned their
costumes. Although each woman adopts an
almost identical pose, their facial features have
been carefully differentiated. This spectacular set
of sculptures gives a vivid impression of the
artistic excellence achieved during the Ming era.