Tang Dynasty Polychromatic Horse

£ 4,500.00

An extremely fine Chinese Tang Dynasty hollow-moulded terracotta horse, shown standing on a squared base, with all four hooves planted to the ground and the head slightly turned to the left. The horse is painted in white pigment and portrayed in the caparisoned style, 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 orange with the blanket further enriched by a lovely floral decoration, comprising red scrolls and green flowers.

Date: Circa 618–906 AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
Condition: Extremely fine, with original pigmentation visible to the surface. This piece has been thermoluminescence tested at Laboratory Kotalla.


Product Code: CS-43
Category: Tags: , ,

Horses were important during the Tang Dynasty and were both the reward of successful military expeditions and the foundation of imperial stability. Brought to China by means of the international Silk Road trade network, horses were also a sign of wealth, with strict laws in place limiting the use of horses to people of a certain rank, and even those serving in the military had to provide their own mount. The different colours of horses also appear to have been of particular importance to the Tang emperors, whose favourite horses are described by their colouration. The Tang Emperors Taizong and Xuanzong both commemorated their horses through artistic depictions, with the specific colouring of the horse of vital importance. Prominent painters of the period, such as Han Gan, specialised in painting horses and thus, they appear as a popular artistic motif of the period. Horses’ 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.

To discover more about Tang tomb figurines, please visit our relevant post: Chinese Tang Dynasty: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.

Dimensions L 46 x H 43.8 cm



Southeast Asia

Reference: For a similar item, Sotheby’s, 11th September 2019, New York, lot number 746.

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