237: Chinese Sancai-Glazed Pottery Tian Ma
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Lot 0237 Details
Large and Impressive Chinese Sancai-Glazed Pottery Figure of a Tian Ma (Heavenly Horse), Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), the muscular beast standing fore square on a rectangular base, its head slightly turned, mouth open, clad in a painted unglazed saddle, glazed saddle blanket, glazed bridle and tasseled trappings, with unusual glazed trapping under the chin, the head with expressive wide eyes and pricked ears, glazed in a chestnut glaze with yellow and green details, presented on a custom wooden stand, h. 21", l. 22". Tian Ma (Heavenly Horses) were highly prized by the Chinese from the time of the Han Dynasty. These strong, muscular horses can supposedly gallop easily for thousands of miles and the Emperor Wu believed this horse could carry him to heaven. Obtaining these horses led to a war between the Chinese and the King of Ferghana, who refused all offers to purchase some of the horses and insulted the Chinese by refusing their offer of a thousand gold pieces and the figure of a gold horse. They murdered the Chinese envoys and had their bodies stripped. It took two military campaigns, the second of over 100,000 men, to defeat the Ferghana and the Chinese finally won an annual tribute of three thousand of these fabulous beasts.
Overall good condition - various breaks and repairs consistent with late 19th/early 20th-century excavation including replaced tail - over-painting to left front chest - three feet broken at the hoof and repaired - repaired crack across the rump - repair across body from right rear leg, right rump across body to right front leg - ears re-glued - base cracked and repaired - some firing cracks - overall fine glaze crackle. Many graves were discovered in the second half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century as railroad lines were being laid. As a grave mound occurred in the proposed path of the train's tracks, the engineers would just cut through the mound, often damaging and destroying most of the contents of the tomb. N.B. This horse is one of a small group with unusual applied decoration. In the case of this horse it is represented by an open loop strap under the jaw.