Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers

Zhou Fanglate 8th-early 9th century A.D.

China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document
Beijing, China

There has not been an agreed opinion on the time when this painting was created. But what is certain is that this work deserves the recognition as a classic in Chinese figure paintings. It illustrates the lifestyle of five noble women as they view the flowers in the imperial courtyard, just as spring changes into summer, as indicated by their garments made of thin gauze and the blossoming of spring flowers, flos magnolia.

There is a customary mode of expression in traditional Chinese figure paintings, namely, the relative size of the figures, either those in the foreground larger and those in the background smaller, or those important larger and those less important smaller. Both were applied in this painting. The attendant with a fan in hands is smaller although she is in the foreground, while the lady in red with hands on her wrist is larger, as her exquisite dress and accessories indicate her noble identity. What is interesting is that these women wear almost the same style of make-up, a face applied with power and brows in the shape of sleeping silkworms. Their face is so identical that one can barely tell the difference. Maybe this is why some scholars believe that the archetype of these women is the same court lady.


  • Title: Court Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers
  • Creator: Zhou Fang
  • Date: late 8th-early 9th century A.D.
  • Provenance: Liaoning Provincial Museum
  • Physical format: painting, 45.5h x 175.5w cm (18 x 69 in.)
  • Medium: colors on silk
  • Dynastic period: Tang Dynasty
  • Artist's birth and death date: active late 8th-early 9th century

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