Set of Eight Painted Terracotta Han Horse and Rider Sculptures - H.1095 - For Sale

Set of Eight Painted Terracotta Han Horse and Rider Sculptures - H.1095
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The Han Dynasty, like the Zhou before it, is divided into two distinct periods, the Western Han (206 B.C.-9 A.D.) and the Eastern Han (23-220 A.D.) with a brief interlude. Towards the end of the Western period, a series of weak emperors ruled the throne, controlled from behind the scenes by Wang Mang and Huo Guang, both relatives of empresses. They both exerted enormous influence over the government and when the last emperor suddenly passed away, Mang became ruling advisor, seizing this opportunity to declare his own Dynasty, the Xin, or “New.” However, another popular uprising began joined by the members of the Liu clan, the family that ruled the Han Dynasty, the Xin came to a quick end and the Eastern Han was established in its place with its capital at Luoyang (Chang’an, the capital of the Western Han, was completely destroyed).The Han era can be characterized as one of the greatest artistic outpourings in Chinese history, easily on par with the glories of their Western contemporaries, Greece and Rome. Wealth pouring into China from trade along the Silk Road initiated a period of unprecedented luxury. Stunning bronze vessels were created, decorated with elegant inlaid gold and silver motifs. Jade carvings reached a new level of technical brilliance. But perhaps the artistic revival of the Han Dynasty is nowhere better represented than in their sculptures and vessels that were interred with deceased nobles. Called mingqi, literally meaning “spirit articles,” these works depicted a vast array of subject, from warriors and horses to houses and livestock, which were buried alongside the dead for use in the next world, reflecting the Chinese belief that the afterlife was an extension of our earthy existence. Thus, quite logically, the things we require to sustain and nurture our bodies in this life would be just as necessary in our next life.The great influence of the horse throughout the history of China cannot be underestimated. In fact, the ancient expansion of the Chinese Empire was due in large part to the horse. The rapid mobility of horse allowed for quick communication between far away provinces. Likewise, the military role of horses aided in the conquest and submission of distant lands. The importance of the horse in the history and culture of China can be viewed, in part, through the artistic legacy of this great civilization. In sculpture, painting, and literature, horses were glorified and revered. Horses were believed to be relatives of mythological dragons, reflecting their sacred status within society. During the unification of China under the Han Dynasty, bands of mounted nomadic warriors from the north threatened the country. In order to thwart their attacks, the Chinese sought to import stronger, faster steeds from Central Asia (as opposed to the Mongol ponies used by the invaders), eventually leading to the creation of the Silk Road.This set of eight sculptures of mounted soldier reveals the crucial military role the horse played in Ancient Chinese society. When compared to the stature of the rider, the importance of the horse becomes readily apparent. This creature provided security and strength, allowing the empire to secure its borders and expand its influences across Central Asia. One of the horse and rider sculptures is significantly larger than the other seven figures, suggesting that this rider is the leader of the force. The horses are white and grey, with saddles highlighted by orange and green painted. The riders wear orange tunics, a few have gray chest armor. They would have originally held a wooden bows or spears in their hands that likely rotted away over the centuries. This remarkable set of sculptures is a creation of immense cultural and historical significance that attests to the critical role of the horse in ancient Chinese civilization. - (H.1095)

Ancient Asian
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Barakat Gallery
405 North Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hills
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