05 mars 2019

A rare sancai-glazed pottery figure of a spotted bull, Tang dynasty (618-906)

A rare sancai-glazed pottery figure of a spotted bull, Tang dynasty (618-906)

Lot 113. A rare sancai-glazed pottery figure of a spotted bull, Tang dynasty (618-906). Length 8 in., 20.3 cm. Estimate 10,000 — 15,000 USDLot Sold 21,250 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.

well modeled standing four square, the pointed ears alert and tail to one side, the dewlap hanging low and the neck with incised folds of skin, the pinkish buff body covered with a straw-colored glaze, intermittently applied with dapples of glassy sky blue against larger splashes of dark amber glaze that pool and cascade downwards.

Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).

NoteCompared to preceding dynasties, Tang pottery includes fewer figurines of domestic animals, with a shift towards modeling 'nobler' beasts such as the horse and camel. As William Watson writes in Tang and Liao Ceramics, London, 1984p. 201, only members of the bovine family receive the same sculptural refinement. Robustly and expressively modeled, the heavy yet graceful contours of the present animal convey a sense of naturalism and strength. Its distinctive hump is prominently highlighted by a deliberately-placed splash of vivid blue. 

It is rare to find blue-glazed examples of bull or oxen in this period, and even rarer to find a piece dappled with blue spots. Compare a related sancai ox, similarly modeled and with large dark green-glazed spots over a clear glaze, in the collection of the Musée Guimet, ibid., pl. 222. A sancai-glazed figure of a recumbent three-horned mythical bull on a pedestal, in the collection of the Tenri Sankokan Museum Collection, Nara, displays a similarly dappled and spotted coat, ibid., pl. 230. Compare also a blue, straw and amber-glazed recumbent buffalo, with the creature glazed almost entirely in cobalt blue, illustrated in The Splendour of Sancai: The Sze Yuan Tang Collection, Littleton and Hennessy, London, 2012, cat. no. 37.

Sotheby's. Junkunc: Arts of Ancient China, New York, 19 march 2019, 10:00 AM


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