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16 Oct 2014

Barakat Gallery announces the opening of an exhibition dedicated to early Chinese funerary art

Tang Painted and Gilt Terracotta Warrior
618 AD to 906 AD
35.75' (90.8cm) high

A Brilliant Afterlife | An exhibition dedicated to the role of Mingqi in early Chinese burials
The Barakat Gallery


Exhibition dates:
1 November - 7 December 2014 Opening reception:
6pm - 9pm, 31 October 2014

Daria Gonciarenko
+44 20 7493 7778
+44 20 7493 9593

The Barakat Gallery
58 Brook Street

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The Barakat Gallery is proud to announce the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the art of Mingqi. This event will coincide with the week of Asian Art in London. The exhibition will feature ten extraordinary pieces of early Chinese funerary objects, including beautiful animal sculptures, magnificent Tang dynasty warrior figures, and a rare pair of large well-preserved Lokapala statues.

Mingqi, literally meaning 'brilliant artefacts', were any variety of funerary furniture or objects placed in Chinese tombs in order to re-create the material environment and provide the deceased with the same comfort they enjoyed while living, thus assuring immortality. Burial figurines of graceful dancers, mystical beasts and everyday objects reveal both how people in early China approached death and reflected their attitude towards the afterlife. Viewing the afterlife as an extension of worldly life, Mingqi artefacts symbolise an eternal transcendence for the deceased.

As an example of Chinese renaissance, objects from the Tang dynasty will take centre stage as a representation of the golden age of Chinese culture. While the Tang era was one of the apices of Chinese art, the exhibition will feature sculptures from the Liao and Ming dynasties as well.

The Tang dynasty was a golden age of Chinese culture, and its art reached new levels of sophistication. Poetry and literature, sculpture and painting all flourished under an enlightened rulership. The trading route known as the Silk Road brought fortunes on the backs of camels to China, spreading the legacy of Chinese Art.

One of the most impressive objects featured in the gallery exhibition is a pair of Tang Sancai glazed terracotta Lokapala. Also known as the Devaraja, or Celestial King, these grand life-sized figures are one of the biggest Lokapala statues in existence. The fierce-faced warriors of Tang dynasty stood menacingly outside royal tombs of deceased nobles to ward off potential robbers while protecting the dead from the evil spirits. Traditionally, these harsh, armoured guardians stood on a recumbent ox, the symbol of the Celestial King's authority. However, the guardian figures on exhibition are trampling on fully modelled demons with webbed feet and hands.

The two guardians are exquisite representations of the Sancai, or 'three-coloured' glazing technique. The main technical advantage of the Sancai method was its comparatively low firing temperature of around 800 degrees. The forms of the sculpture were impressed from moulds, the various parts assembled together while still wet. With highlights added, the entirety was covered in glaze and fired. Metallic ores were used as the colouring agents: iron for red and brown, antimony for yellow, and copper for green. Occasionally, work would be coated with a special glaze and fired again in order to achieve a glossier coat. The Sancai glaze was not reserved for any particular type of work and was applied to the full range of Mingqi, including warriors, guardians, civic officials, and animals.

The refined artistry and sophisticated beauty of Mingqi continues to amaze art lovers and collectors alike. It is with reverence that these items are displayed and appreciated, as they were never intended to be seen by the living.

Please come and join us in the celebration of Asian Art in London week!