18 août 2019

Back on Tang dynasty ceramics sold at Christie's New York, 19 March 2008

An amber and straw-glazed painted pottery figure of a horse, Tang dynasty (618-907)

Lot 510. An amber and straw-glazed painted pottery figure of a horse, Tang dynasty (618-907); 14 in. (35.6 cm.) long. Estimate USD 10,000 - USD 15,000. Price realised USD 18,750. © Christie's Image Ltd 2008.

Standing foursquare with head turned slightly to the left, the pricked ears, mane and tip of the tail covered in an amber glaze running down the crisply modeled face and muscular neck, the body covered in a transparent straw glaze, the saddle with orange pigment and the saddle blanket left unglazed revealing the buff ware. 

Provenance: Christie's, London, 15 June 1998, lot 61.
The Dr. Anton C.R. Dreesmann Collection; Christie's, London, 10 April 2002, lot 287.

A massive well-modeled chestnut and cream-glazed pottery figure of a Bactrian camel, Tang dynasty (618-907)

 Lot 512. A massive well-modeled chestnut and cream-glazed pottery figure of a Bactrian camel, Tang dynasty (618-907); 33¼ in. (84.4 cm.) highEstimate USD 10,000 - USD 15,000. Price realised USD 18,750. © Christie's Image Ltd 2008.

Shown striding with head thrown up and back, its mouth open in a bray revealing long pointed teeth and tongue, the tall humps swaying to either side of the body, the areas of heavy hair deeply scored and textured beneath a cream-colored glaze draining in areas onto the chestnut-glazed body.

Provenance: Acquired prior to 1996. 

Note: This massive and exceptionally handsome camel is a particularly fine example of the type of figure that was made to go into the tombs of the Tang elite in the first half of the 8th century. Such models, which would have been very expensive to purchase, provided an obvious indication of the wealth of a family who could afford to inter such costly goods with their deceased relative. Not surprisingly, camels have been found among the burial items in a number of the Tang Imperial tombs, as well as some of those belonging to other members of the Tang nobility. However, these models were not simply symbols of wealth, they were also symbols of the way that wealth might have been acquired through trade and tribute along the Silk Route. In the Tang dynasty camels really did live up to the description of them as 'ships of the desert' and were used to transport Chinese goods, including silk across the difficult terrain of the Silk Route to the eager markets of Central Asia, Samarkand, Persia and Syria. Camels are reported to have routinely carried up to 250 kg. in their packs. They may also be seen as symbolic of the cosmopolitanism of the Tang capital at Chang'an. They carried, on their return journeys, many of the exotic luxuries from the west that were desired by the sophisticated Tang court. 

The two-humped Bactrian camel was known in China as early as the Han dynasty, having been brought from Central Asia and Eastern Turkestan as tribute. Its amazing ability to survive the hardships of travel across the Asian deserts was soon recognized and Imperial camel herds were established under the administration of a special Bureau. These Imperial camel herds, numbering several thousand, were used for a range of state duties, including the provision of a military courier service for the Northern Frontier. Camels were not only prized as resilient beasts of burden, their hair was also used to produce a cloth, which, then as now, was admired for its lightness and warmth. Even camel meat was regarded as a delicacy, with the hump being noted as particularly flavorsome. 

Compare the similar large brown and cream-glazed camel exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum and illustrated in the catalogue Chugoku no Toji, Tokyo National Museum, 12 October-November 23, 1994, p. 87, no. 122. 

The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C108d25 is consistent with the dating of this lot. 

A rare sancai-glazed pottery phoenix-handled ewer, Tang dynasty (618-907)

Lot 513. A rare sancai-glazed pottery phoenix-handled ewer, Tang dynasty (618-907); 7 5/8 in. (19.3 cm.) highEstimate USD 15,000 - USD 18,000. Price realised USD 18,750. © Christie's Image Ltd 2008. 

The high shoulder of the ovoid body applied with a small bird's head and scored with a grooved band interrupted by a pair of applied loops and by the terminus of the double-strap handle enclosing a ball at its base and surmounted on top by a phoenix head biting the lip of the galleried rim surmounting the ribbed, reel-shaped neck, covered overall in a splashed and streaked glaze of amber, leaf green and cream color falling irregularly onto the rim of the slightly concave base exposing the buff ware.

Note: Compare a similar ewer dated to the first half of the 8th century in the Museum Für Kunst und Gewerbe: Reemtsma Collection, Hamburg, illustrated by W. Watson, Tang and Liao Ceramics, New York, 1984, pl. 71. Compare, also, another example, but with a different glaze pattern, illustrated in Sekai toji zenshu, rev. ed., Tokyo, 1976, vol. 11, pl. 225 and again in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, Tokyo, 1976, vol. 1, pl. 231.


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