A very well-modeled blue and sancai-glazed pottery figure of a caparisoned horse, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907)

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Lot 1059. A very well-modeled blue and sancai-glazed pottery figure of a caparisoned horse, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907); 18 1⁄8 in. (46 cm.) high, cloth boxPrice realised USD 226,800 (Estimate USD 200,000 – USD 300,000). © Christie's 2022

The horse is shown standing four-square on a rectangular base with head harnessed and turned slightly to the left, with rakish forelock swept back beneath pricked ears. The back carries a heavily textured saddle blanket molded in imitation of fur and covered in a blue glaze. The floret trappings and the chest and crupper straps are crisply molded with suspended heart-shaped leaf medallions picked out in straw and bright green glazes. The body of the horse is glazed in a rich amber, which pools around the hooves. The bulging unglazed eyes show traces of pigment.

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong, September 1982.

Note: The sancai or ‘three-color’ glaze was developed during the seventh century when Tang-dynasty potters were experimenting with the lively tones of green, amber and yellow. The cobalt-blue glaze, as seen on the saddle of this horse, was an expensive import from the Middle East at the time and was reserved for objects of the highest quality. On this example it is luxuriously used to completely cover the saddle, which is textured to imitate fur.

The present horse is distinguished by its luxurious trappings, which are finely rendered and glazed, as well as by its handsome proportions and its lustrous, well-preserved glaze. It is of a somewhat more unusual, smaller scale than other more widely published horses with the more common green-glazed textured saddles, such as the 73 cm. long example in the Tokyo National Museum, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, vol. 1, Tokyo, 1982, col. pl. 64. Tang-dynasty pottery horses with the inclusion of the blue glaze are considerably rare. A very finely modeled pair of smaller-scale glazed pottery horses (15 in. high) in the David W. Dewey Collection features one amber-glazed horse with an amber-glazed textured saddle and blue-glazed details on the fittings and a cropped mane as seen on the present horse, and one cream-glazed horse with the saddle, cloth and fittings featuring blue-glazed details, illustrated by R. Jacobsen in Celestial Horses and Long Sleeve Dancers, The David W. Dewey Collection of Ancient Tomb Sculpture, Minneapolis, 2013, pp. 230-231.

The result of Oxford thermoluminescence test no. C122c29 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, New York, 25 march 2022