East Asia, China, Han Dynasty, ca. 206 BCE to 220 CE. Standing proud and barking in animated fashion, a green-glazed, hollow-figured, mold-made pottery dog with a naturalistically modeled body - its head tilted slightly upward and mouth agape as if barking, revealing its tongue and fangs. Forward curved ears and an erect and curled tail add to the dog's dramatic presence. In addition, the canine wears a decorated harness, and much of the original brown slip remains on the surface with the green glaze showing attractive craquelure that has developed over the ages. The Han Dog was used as a tomb guardian protecting the master's grave with its alert stance and fierce appearance. Size: 16.375" L x 12.875" H (41.6 cm x 32.7 cm)
Tomb attendants like this one are part of a class of artifacts called mingqi - sometimes known as "spirit utensils" or "vessels for ghosts." They became popular in the Han Dynasty and would persist for several centuries. Alongside a dog like this one would have been musicians, athletes, animals, structures… Even though they were mass produced, mingqi of the Han Dynasty often show a high level of detail and naturalism. These were designed to assist the po, the part of the soul of the deceased that remained underground with the body while the hun, the other part of the soul, ascended. Caring for the po seems to have taken on a new level of meaning in the Han period, with more elaborate rituals and tomb construction arising.
Provenance: private Florida, USA collection; ex Ben Shepps collection, Florida, USA
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