Tang Sculpture of a Horse

SKU X.0407

618 AD to 906 AD


15″ (38.1cm) high x 16.125″ (41.0cm) wide





Gallery Location



During the Tang dynasty, China enjoyed a period of consolidation, achievement, and confidence. Tang art tends to reflect this assurance in its realism, energy, and dignity.

During the Tang dynasty, the accumulation of numerous wealthy and worldly individuals with large amount of leisure time in a few cities created a true metropolitan elite that demanded an abundance of exotic luxury items, thus defining a new aesthetic taste and fashion.

This statue resembles a portrait of an individual horse with its lifelike modeling and expressive facial features. To add to the realistic effect, a mane made of real hair would have been attached to the statue at the groove along the horse’s neck and a tail added to the rear. Strong, noble, and splendid, this brightly painted terracotta horse conveys the love and admiration that Tang society felt toward its steeds. As horses were often symbols of the afterlife, this funerary statue seems to be ready to bear his owner into the afterlife on his saddle. Horses held particular significance with Tang rulers and aristocrats, who relied on them for military preparedness and diplomatic policy. The horses depicted here belongs to a large and spirited breed much sought after by the Chinese. Originating in the grasslands of Inner Asia, such horses were much larger than the pony native to China, hence valued for their speed and nobility. Indeed owing a horse became a privilege in Tang China when, in 667 an edict decreed that only aristocrats (of both sexes) could ride them.

Clearly, this horse was a beloved creature buried alongside the deceased to accompany him throughout eternity. Wearing harnesses painted in black with orange highlights, the horse is ready to gallop across the eternal fields of the afterlife, carrying the spirit of the deceased upon its back.

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