Lot 253. A pair of painted pottery figures of prancing horses, Tang dynasty (618-907); 25 in. (63.5 cm.) long. Estimate USD 60,000 - USD 80,000. Price realised USD 60,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2007

Each spirited figure modelled with right leg raised and head turned towards the left, the head well modelled with crisp features below pricked ears, the arched neck grooved for a separate mane and the rump with a hole for a tail, each with separate saddle painted with cruciform motifs, with traces of black and red details.

Note: Perhaps the most universally admired ceramic horses are those made for the tombs of the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) aristocracy. The Tang nobility were legendary for their love of horses, so much so that the court passed a law in AD 667 that allowed only members of the elite to ride. These horses were not used solely for war or transport, but were also horses employed in leisure activities. Polo, for example, was a popular pursuit at the Tang court and was played by both men and women. It was specifically encouraged by two Tang emperors, Taizong and Xuanzong, as being excellent for the development of certain useful skills.

It is unusual to find a pair of prancing horses as realistically and powerfully rendered. The artist was exceptionally skilled at capturing the power of the present pair, posed here with one leg raised as they prance energetically. A similar example of a single Tang dynasty prancing horse, although without saddle, was sold in these rooms, 3 June 1993, lot 191. Related pairs of painted pottery horses were sold in these rooms, 30 March 2005, lot 252, and 21 September 2004, lot 197.

The results of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence tests nos. C206a89 and C206a90 are consistent with the dating of this lot

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 22 March 2007