Tang Sculpture of a Horse

SKU X.0408
Circa

618 AD to 906 AD

Dimensions

15.5″ (39.4cm) high x 16.125″ (41.0cm) wide

Medium

Terracotta

Origin

China

Gallery Location

UK


 

The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the ancient expansion of the Chinese Empire was due in large part to the horse. The rapid mobility of horse allowed for quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered.

During the Tang Dynasty, the adoration of the horse can be seen through their burial art. Horse models excavated from tombs of the period are among the most splendid and easily recognizable works of Chinese art. This horse has an elegant red coat as well as a painted numnah, or saddle blanket. In addition, its head is turned to the side, a rare feature that is highly desired by collectors. When gazing into the eyes of this delightful sculpture, we become aware of the reverence the Chinese held for this majestic creature.

As sculptural representations of the fashions of the time, the highest quality painted pottery mingqi tended to be more successful than those glazed. While sancai objects required greater expenditure of material and labour, the application of the glaze meant that the replication of fine details in drapery and physiognomy would have got lost or overseen in favour of the rich glaze. Because of the requirements of the glazing process, sancai pieces tended to be less freely sculpted while for painted pottery the artisans felt best able to explore the details of the face, the garments and over all decoration and the other accoutrements that fascinated the Tang aristocracy

The horse here depicted is of 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 horses.

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