The relationship between China and horses dates back to Neolithic times and the first domestication of the animal is believed to have started in the 13th century BC. Brought to China by means of the international Silk Road trade network, horses were a sign of wealth, widely used in warfare, hunting and in the aristocratic pastime of polo. It was believed that horses were related to dragons, another auspicious creature. Horse statuettes, such as this incredibly fine example, were usually meant to be grave goods to be placed in tombs. It was believed that these figures would serve and assist the deceased in the afterlife. Figures of this type are called mingqi in Chinese, and depict servants, officials, soldiers, musicians, court attendants, dancers and, in the case of animals, horses and Bactrian camels. While these statuettes had always been popular, by the late Northern Wei period, a new level of decoration and naturalism was achieved in the production of horse mingqi.
Northern Wei Dynasty Caparisoned Horse
An extremely fine Chinese hollow-moulded terracotta horse, dating from the Northern Wei Dynasty. The horse is depicted standing on a squared base, with all four hooves planted to the ground. Painted in white pigment and portrayed in the caparisoned style, the statuette is richly decorated with apricot-leaf shaped adornments to the collar and crupper strap. The horse is modelled in an extremely naturalistic manner, with much attention given towards the rendering of facial and anatomical features. The majority of white slip remains, with additional red and black pigments, used to pick out details of the features, such as the alert pupils and the full mane. The saddle, which rests on a folded blanket, has been carefully painted in red with the blanket further enriched by a dotted decoration.
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Period: Northern Wei Dynasty
Provenance: Ex Cotswold collection, 1990-2020, previously with Oriental Gallery Bath.
Condition: Excellent condition, with original pigments still visible. This piece has been thermoluminescence tested at Laboratory Kotalla.
|Dimensions||L 39.5 x H 40.5 cm|
East Asia (Far East)
Straw or Ash Glaze