A large sancai-glazed pottery horse, Tang dynasty (618-907)



Lot 826. A large sancai-glazed pottery horse, Tang dynasty (618-907); 21 in. (53.3 cm.) highEstimate: USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. Price realised USD 125,000© Christie's 2021

The horse is shown standing foursquare on a rectangular base with its head turned slightly to the left and mouth open. Its mane, tail, and central forelock between pricked ears are covered with a cream glaze. The body is glazed in rich amber and cream glazes that drip down the legs to the cream-glazed hoofs. The saddle is glazed green, and the bridle and harness are decorated with large scrolling foliate appliques.

Provenance: Christie's New York, 23 March 1995, lot 341.

NoteThe present sancai horse is exceptionally well-modelled, revealing the technical accomplishment and stylistic maturity of Chinese ceramic sculpture at the peak of the Tang dynasty. The figure is likely represents one of the breed of magnificent Ferghana horses imported from Central Asia, and immortalized in Chinese literature and the visual arts. The horse itself was a potent image during the vigorous expansion of the Tang ‘golden age’, a symbol of aristocratic wealth and power.

In style and subject matter, the present horse with sancai or ‘three-color’ glaze was developed during the seventh century when Tang artisans experimented with sancai glazes, creating a lively spectrum of green, amber, and yellow over a creamy-white ground. The distribution of glaze on this current horse displays an unusually high degree of control.

Comparable examples of sancai-glazed horses are illustrated in Chinese Ceramics in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1987, nos. 375-78, and by J. Baker, Seeking Immortality: Chinese Tomb Sculpture from the Schloss Collection, 1996, p. 44, no. 34.

The result of Oxford thermoluminescence test no. 666w8 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, New York, 23-24 september 2021