Tang Dynasty Prancing Horse

Tang Dynasty Prancing Horse, well-modelled standing with raised foreleg, with its head lowered, the powerful arched neck with the mane swept to one side, with extensive remains of polychrome decoration.

Remarkable Painted Buff Pottery Figure of a Prancing Horse

Very good condition.

Auction result comparison: Compare with a closely related almost identical grey pottery figure of a horse at Christie’s Amsterdam in Chinese and Japanese Ceramics and Works of Art, 4th November 2003, lot 239, sold for €11,000 hammer price plus 22% buyer’s premium. See photo.

– The results of thermoluminescence tests are consistent with the dating of this object. Test results will be provided to winning bidder.

– Extra test: Pre-dose test has been done Pre-dose test confirms old firing without any kind of artificial x-ray treatments!

Early Tang Dynasty (618-907)

Excellent condition, much of the original pigment remaining.

Height 35 cm. Wide 47 cm.

Excavated from the tomb in Qianxian, Shaanxi province.

Outstanding and monumental pottery “mingqi” representing a painted grey pottery model of a prancing horse.

Grey earthenware coated with white slip and remains of white, black, and red pigment.

Well-modelled standing with raised foreleg, with its head lowered, the powerful arched neck with the mane swept to one side, with extensive remains of polychrome decoration.

Note: It will be professionally packed and safely sent in a wooden crate within 3 working days by FedEx. Shipped with Insurance!

This is an exceptional prancing horse, unusual in the complementary fashion the position of the horse head and ears. The horse is standing on a rectangular plinth, and in the same time neighing (extremely rare). Every line of the horse emphasises its dramatic neigh- the neck stretched high and forward. The small, lean-featured head, the thick neck and the belly are typical Tang renderings of an Arabian. Also worthy of note is that the widely separated ears, both twisting backward (only few Tang horses were made like this and could be found in the present market), reveal its spirit.

With its dynamic pose, the horse conveys a lively sense of energy. The long, elegant mane and prancing position represent one of a highly desirable and rare group of trained dancing horses that were much in demand by the Imperial household and its guests.


Asian art market

Dutch private collection, Amsterdam

Additional Information:

Tang Dynasty

National unification during the Tang dynasty brought about centuries of social stability and economic prosperity. Ceramic art evolved further towards maturity and important kiln centres emerge across the country.

The repertoire of mortuary objects in Tang tombs closely followed those of earlier periods. The majority was still made of pottery clay and came in many forms and styles, which illustrate the evolution and traits of Tang ceramic art. These objects can broadly be divided into five categories namely tomb guardians, guards of honour, attendants, animals, and utilitarian wares.

Tang dynasty tomb figures are pottery figures of people and animals made in the Tang dynasty of China (618–906) as grave goods to be placed in tombs. There was a belief that the figures represented would become available for the service of the deceased in the afterlife. The figures are made of moulded earthenware with colour generally being added, though often not over the whole figure, or in naturalistic places. Where the colouring was in paint it has often not survived, but in many cases, it was in sancai (“three-colour”) ceramic glaze, which has generally lasted well.

The figures, called mingqui in Chinese, were most often of servants, soldiers (in male tombs) and attendants such as dancers and musicians, with many no doubt representing courtesans. In burials of people of high rank there may be soldiers and officials as well. The animals are most often horses, but there are surprising numbers of both Bactrian camels and their Central Asian drivers, distinguished by thick beards and hair, and their facial features. The depictions are realistic to a degree unprecedented in Chinese art, and the figures give archaeologists much useful information about life under the Tang. There are also figures of the imaginary monster “earth spirits” and the fearsome human Lokapala (or tian wang), both usually in pairs and acting as tomb guardians to repel attacks by both spirits and humans. Sets of the twelve imaginary beasts of the Chinese Zodiac are also found, usually unglazed.

The most common animals, and the most likely to be large and carefully modelled and decorated, are horses and camels. Both sorts range from animals without harness and saddlery to those with elaborately detailed trappings, and carrying riders or, in the case of camels, heavy loads of goods.

The graceful ladies with plump faces and bodies (so called Fat ladies), the smartly dressed civil officials, the mighty warriors, the horses with saddles and accessories, as well as camels and non – Chinese figurines are all results of the potter’s keen observation and superb virtuosity. They allow us to visualise life in China more than a millennium ago.

Condition: Very good condition. Wear consistent with the age, some loss of color. Please be advised that all ancient Chinese pottery objects had been buried in tombs and are excavated from there. Therefore, they can always have some restorations. Also worth of note is that the item is more than 1200 years old. 

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