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HOME : Chinese Art : Han Horses : Han Polychrome Torso of a Horse
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Han Polychrome Torso of a Horse - H.020
Origin: China
Circa: 206 BC to 220 AD
Dimensions: 13.625" (34.6cm) high x 18.125" (46.0cm) wide
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Painted Terracotta

Location: United States
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The body of this horse figurine is painted in a dark red pigment, highlighted in areas around the nostrils, eyes, inner ears, and mouth in bright red. Its body trappings--bridle and reins--are painted in bright red, stylistically patterned in a criss-cross head piece and a diamond shaped chest ornament that ties near the saddle. The saddle is colored white with bright red trimming. The horse's massive and solid appearance is accentuated by the anima'ls graceful curves yet wide, sturdy form. The tappered jawline gives the appearance of a "hinged" mouth, adding to expressionistic features of this horse whose bright white teeth gleam against the hanging flesh of the lip. Valued for its speed, strength and beauty, the horse has been one of the most admired animals in China. The horse has enabled man to swiftly transport massive armies into distant and neighboring territories in order to secure vast wealth and land. According to lore, there existed a horse so powerful and beautiful that it was believed to be bequeathed from heaven. In early China, owning a horse required wealth and status, eventually becoming as a sign of one's social standing. Equestrian activities only encourage the indulgence of the wealthy few who owned horses. Naturally in Chinese art, the horse became a favorite subject of artists who try to create visual representations of the animal that capture both its vitality and presence. During the Han Dynasty, the horse was rendered in miniature sculptural form to be interred with the dead. It was believed that the animal could assume its powers and assist the deceased in the dangerous journey to the otherworld. This custom answered to the needs of a particular belief system regarding life after death and the spiritual world. - (H.020)


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