A rare painted pottery figure of a horse nuzzling its leg, Tang dynasty (618-907)

Lot 519. A rare painted pottery figure of a horse nuzzling its leg, Tang dynasty (618-907); 15 1/4 in., 39 cm. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 USD. Lot sold 228,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.

the elegant beast standing on a shaped base with the head bent low to nuzzle the slightly raised left foreleg, covered with a long mane finely combed over both sides of the arched neck, before a small saddle set upon a saddleblanket incised with lozenge motifs, with significant traces of pigment overall.

Provenance: Collection of Arthur B. Michael, Newton Center, MA (bequest of 1942).
Collection of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, no. 1942:16.20.

Literature: Andrew C. Ritchie, Catalogue of the Paintings and Sculpture in the Permanent Collection, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1949, p. 212, no. 214.
Steven A. Nash, with Katy Kline, Charlotta Kotik and Emese Wood, Albright-Knox Art Gallery: Painting and Sculpture from Antiquity to 1942, Buffalo, 1979, p. 105

NoteTang pottery horses are rarely depicted in this lively pose, with the head lowered as if about to grab the front leg. A painted pottery horse sculpted in a similar pose was discovered in the tomb of Dugu Sijing and his family, who died in 709 AD, and is illustrated in Tang Chang'an chengjiao Sui Tang mu / Excavation of the Sui and Tang Tombs at Xi'an, Beijing, 1980, pl. 69. Another somewhat larger but closely related painted pottery horse standing in this rare position, from the Eumorfopoulos collection and now in the British Museum, London, was included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935, cat.no. 2466, where it was described at the time as being of Wei date.

Compare also a horse sold in our Los Angeles rooms, 13th March 1974, lot 30; and another example but with hogged mane and a furry cloth over the saddle, sold in these rooms, 20th March 2002, lot 51.

Glazed Tang horses are also known in this posture, but they are equally rare; a light straw-coloured horse in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was included in the Museum's exhibition Unearthing China's Past, Boston, 1973, cat.no. 88, and another sold in these rooms, 13th March 1975, lot 208, is now in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo, both with different harness and trappings in sancai glazes.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, including Property from the Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 19-20 march 2007