Figure of a horse in polychrome terracotta, Chine, Tang Dynasty, 618-906 A.D.
A figure of a horse, made of polychrome terracotta, probably with the usual engobes of the period (cold-applied). Due to its aesthetic characteristics and the type of figure it is, it may have formed part of the grave goods of a prominent member of the Tang Dynasty. The piece has been captured by the sculptor with great naturalism, which can be seen especially in the detail of the face and in the position of the animal, with its legs open. This characteristic gives movement and an active attitude to the figure.
In addition to human figures, terracotta statuettes found in burial sites could also take the form of animals considered essential even in the afterlife, such as horses. Horses were considered of vital importance in ancient Chinese culture for their usefulness in both warfare and everyday life, and so they frequently appear in terracotta form in Chinese burial sites throughout the centuries, in the hope that they too could pass on to the afterlife.
The Ferghana horse was one of the first major imports from China, originating from an area in Central Asia. These horses, depicted in clay figures in Tang Dynasty tombs, “are also known as the “celestial horse” in China or the Nisean horse in the West.
Chinese statues and paintings indicate that these horses had proportionately short legs, powerful crests and round barrels. The forelegs of Chinese depictions are very straight, similar to the Guoxia horse of modern China.