3. A sancai-glazed pottery figure of a caparisoned horse

唐 挂瑞獸杏葉三彩陶馬

The horse is well modelled standing square on a rectangular base. The head is raised and turned slightly to the near side, with expressive eyebrows, pricked ears and a short forelock. Leaf-shaped pendants each decorated in relief with a crouching animal adorn the cheeks, forehead and nose. The breast and crupper straps that secure the saddle are suspended with similar elaborate beast-decorated pendants. The trappings are glazed in characteristic sancai colours of green, straw and amber, while the rest of the animal is glazed in amber apart from the hogged mane which is glazed in straw. The saddle, covered with a saddlecloth gathered on each side, is unglazed, showing the fine pinkish-buff ware. 

It is rare to find a horse with trappings fitted with such elaborate pendants. On the type of caparisoned horse that this pottery figure represents, the pendants would probably have been made of gilt-bronze. The unusual creature crouching in the centre of each pendant is of the same type as is seen in the centre of many contemporary Tang mirrors of “lion and grapevine” pattern. It is likely that the “lion and grapevine” pattern is a Chinese interpretation of a the “senmurv and palmette” pattern that had entered China through the Silk Road, the senmurv being a mythical animal popular in Sasanian art.

Dimensions: Height: 49.5 cm, 19½ inches

Date: Tang dynasty (618-906), 8th century

Price: On Request