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Horse Torso


Artwork Details

Horse Torso
earthenware with mineral paint
11 7/16 in x 14 15/16 in x 5 5/16 in (29.05 cm x 37.94 cm x 13.49 cm)
Gift of Ping and Zenobia Lee

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

Horses have been extremely important in China as vehicles for warfare since at least the Shang dynasty, as evidenced by the tombs of kings and warlords that included numerous sacrificial horses for use in the afterlife. Since the Qin dynasty, actual horses were replaced in tombs with ceramic representations. 
During the prosperous Han dynasty, many different equestrian breeds were imported from Central and Western Asia. Their portrayal can be seen in a variety of media. Stylistically, they are shown as having powerful, stocky bodies on thin, agile, and presumably fast legs. Heads are usually held high, along with their tails, creating not only a visual balance but also a suggestion of movement. Countless ceramic horses of various sizes have been excavated from Han tombs, with a concentration excavated from the north and south-central areas. In the tomb, their presence indicates the wealth, power, and elite status of the occupant.
During the Eastern Han dynasty, horse sculptures were either sculpted by hand, molded, or a combination thereof. Most were unglazed and painted after firing with a combination of red, white, and black mineral pigments.

Physical Description:

A red earthenware horse torso sculpture. Its muscular neck holds its narrow head high. The head is vividly sculpted, showing the musculature of the horse's face, flaring nostrils and an open mouth displaying the tongue. It has bulging eyes, ears pointing forward, and a trimmed mane. The body is stocky yet elegantly curved. There is loss to the legs. The horse is covered in white mineral pigment, with a blue flowing mane and cloud scroll on its rump, and red, white, and blue horse trappings and saddle. 

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