This elegant figure is an important example of the Northern Wei (386－534) sculptural tradition, displaying the costumes of the living though its long draping robes and sleeves, and its square headdress. Ceramic sculptures modelled in the round and with slightly elongated features were made following the move of the Northern Wei capital to Luoyang in 494, and display the foreign Tuoba rulers' awareness and adoption of Han Chinese aesthetics. The tall hat with visor and 'ear muffs' on this figure is discussed in Ezekiel Schloss, Ancient Chinese Ceramic Sculpture, vol. I
, Stamford, 1977, p. 155, who notes that this style of Northern Wei hat was worn by both male and female members of the aristocracy. It is however more likely that it denotes military officers, as suggested in the catalogue to the exhibition China. Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD
, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004, p. 234, where a ceramic head with a similar hat, recovered from the Yongning temple, Luoyang, is published, cat. no. 130d.
A similar ceramic figure is illustrated in Satō Masahiko, Tōji taikei: Chūgoku no dogū [Clay figurines of China], Tokyo, 1972, pl. 43; another attributed to the Six Dynasties period is illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, vol. I, pl. 156, together with one from the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo, pl. 160, and a smaller example with an exaggerated hat from the Tenri Sankōkan Museum, Nara, pl. 159, and another, pl. 155, sold in our New York rooms, 19th/20th March 2013, lot 18 (fig. 1); and a further figure was sold at Christie's London, 12th October 1970, lot 98. Compare also a figure of this type with its hands visible, illustrated in Sekai tōji zenshū / Ceramic Art of the World, vol. 10, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 284, together with a smaller example, pl. 283.