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Ca. AD 386-535

An elegant hollow-moulded terracotta horse. This horse is modelled in a standing pose with its neck elegantly arched and its ears pricked forward attentively. The mane is indicated with the use of a scalloped red design with white dotted details. The head is well modelled with notched ears pricked on either side of a feather ornament, with a tasselled rope looped around the top of the neck and tufted ornaments on the chest collar, the back is covered with a long red cloth with white dotted detailing, gathered at the bottom atop the flaring mudguard. The rump is encircled by a series of intricate tassels, attached to a tufted back piece. This terracotta may represent a horse fitted for a parade.


Horses were an important status symbol in ancient China. These animals were brought to China via the Silk Road and were considered luxury goods. As such horses were a sign of wealth among the elite, and there were strict laws which restricted the ownership of horses to people of elevated rank. In fact, soldiers serving in China’s military had to provide their own mounts, indicating that only the richest members of society could serve in the cavalry. This exceptionally well-preserved terracotta is part of a long tradition of horse statuettes in China, and in fact, the earliest known example of a stirrup, a mainstay of modern equestrianism, was found on another Chinese statue of a horse from Hunan province, dated to AD 302.

This piece has been precisely dated by means of a Thermo Luminescence analysis carried out by Ralf Kotalla, an independent German Laboratory. The samples collected date the piece to the period reflected in its style whilst also showing no modern trace elements. The TL certificate with its full report will accompany this piece.


Provenance: UK private collection; formerly acquired in the 1990s in Hong Kong.


  • Dimensions

    L: 355mm / W: 340mm ; 2.75kg

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