Pair of Tang Terracotta Horses with Removable Saddles

SKU H.1033

618 AD to 906 AD


21″ (53.3cm) high





Gallery Location



The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the ancient unification of the Chinese Empire was due in large part to the horse. Their rapid mobility allowed for quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. The need to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the native Mongol pony) led to the creation of the Silk Road. The importance of the horse in the history and culture of China can be viewed, in part, through the artistic legacy of this great civilization. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered, believed to be relatives of dragons, a theory reflecting their sacred status within society. During the T’ang Dynasty, the adoration of the horse can be seen through their burial art. Horse models excavated from mausoleums of the period are among the most splendid and easily recognizable works of Chinese art.

These impressive, large sculptures of a horses still retain much of their original white pigment in tact. However, even more impressive, is the removable saddles that grace their backs. Our horse facing left is painted in a soft green hue, while his mate facing left is painted in a soft white hue. These textured saddles may have once supported riders who are now lost to us. Traces of polychrome are also visible inside the nose and along the mouth. The horses also feature a prominent cowlick rising between their ears and arching forwards. All these rare features are sought after by collectors. When one imagines these horses as they might have originally appeared, with vibrant hues and a similarly modeled riders, the illusion would have been uncanny. These gorgeous sculptures are a testament to the admiration and adoration the Chinese had for this marvelous creature. Although they were an integral part in the expansion and defense of the empire, they were equally regarded for their beauty and grace as revealed by this sculpture.

Login to view price