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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Horses : Tang Sculpture of a Horse with Removable Saddle
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Tang Sculpture of a Horse with Removable Saddle - H.1083
Origin: China
Circa: 7 th Century AD to 8 th Century AD
Dimensions: 22.6" (57.4cm) high
Collection: Chinese art
Style: Early Tang Dynasty
Medium: Terracotta

Location: Great Britain
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The Tang Dynasty was a golden age of Chinese culture. The arts reached new levels of sophistication. Poetry and literature flourished under the enlightened rulership. The Silk Road brought fortunes into China on the backs of camels, carrying exotic luxury items from distant lands. Foreign merchants from across Central Asia and the Middle East settled in the urban centers of the Tang China, foremost among them the thriving capital of Chang’an (modern X’ian), a bustling cosmopolitan center of over two million inhabitants. The Tang Dynasty was a relatively stable period of great prosperity representing one of the greatest cultural flourishings in human history.

The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the ancient unification of the Chinese Empire was due in large part to the speed and stamina of the horse. Their rapid mobility allowed for quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. The need to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the native Mongol pony) encouraged the development of the Silk Road.

The importance of the horse in the history and culture of China can be viewed, in part, through the artistic legacy of this great civilization. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered, believed to be relatives of dragons, a theory reflecting their sacred status within society. The adoration that Chinese society held for the horse during the Tang era can be seen in their burial art. Horse models excavated from mausoleums of the period are among the most splendid and easily recognizable works of Chinese art.

This graceful sculpture of horse dates to the early part of the Tang Dynasty. The legs, torso, and head of the horse were individually molded and then attached together to form the completed work. The body of the horse has been painted white, while the detachable saddle has been colored a light red hue that was probably originally much more vibrant. The detachable saddle and other stylistic features, such as the stance and the tilt of the neck, are rare and highly valued by collectors. A rider carved from a less durable material such as wood may have once rested atop the saddle. - (H.1083)


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