Figure of a Recumbent Dog, Six Dynasties Period, early 6th century

Figure of a Recumbent Dog, Six Dynasties Period, early 6th century. Gray earthenware with red polychrome, 3 5/8 x 6 1/4 x 3 5/8 in. (9.2 x 15.8 x 9.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Guennol Collection, 1998.85.1.

Provenance : C.T. Loo, Paris and J.J. Lally & Co. New York.

NoteAs one of the earliest domesticated animals in China (by the 4th-5th millennium BCE), the dog functioned as guard and hunting animal and was also a symbol of fidelity. Canine remains have been found at the feet of the deceased in several Neolithic burial mounds and Shang tombs. Earthenware representations of dogs exist as early as the Neolithic period, but date generally from the Han to Tang dynasties as mingqi, or funerary ware. Examples of sturdy-looking hunting and working breeds appear most frequently either covered with glaze or with polychrome and in a variety of positions. The breed depicted here seems to derive from the mastiff family, which has an extended lineage in China as a working dog. Stylistically speaking, the sharp edge of the back beginning from the neck is comparable to earthenware representations of caparison horses and other dogs from the Six Dynasties period.