Pink painted pottery horse

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Western Han Dynasty, 206 BC - 25 AD
Pottery with pigments
46 cm

G.M. Greenwald, The Greenwald Collection, Two Thousand Years of Chinese Ceramics, 1996, no. 1.
Spirit of Han - Ceramics for the After-Life, published by the Southeast Asian Ceramic Society, page 89 and 92.

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This painted pottery horse is shown standing foursquare with his head facing forward, in a strong and fierce position. The sculpted chest emphasizes his power. The expressive head is modeled with flat cheeks, prominent brows, an open mouth and alert ears. The curved tail is separately socketed. The horse is covered overall with brick-red pigment, on his back and head are traces of the original painted saddle and bridle in red and black. Horses were of great cultural importance in the history of China; they were of great significance in both battle and recreation and played an important part in the expansion and protection of the empire.

The horse was part of the burial rituals in the Chinese Han Dynasty. High-ranking persons were buried with mingqi: 'spirit goods'. It was believed that life after death was a continuation of the present life, and therefore the deceased was provided with all the objects necessary to continue living after death, such as terracotta animals, food, clothing, valuables, as well as warriors, musicians and guardians. The tombs were designed architecturally so that, together with the objects, they provided both a comfortable final resting place as well as a safe journey for the deceased into the afterlife. Some high ranking people received a military cortege at their funeral; it is likely that this horse  was part of a model funerary of cavalry and footmen, that was placed in a tomb. Ancestor worship was very important, for the welfare of the deceased and for the welfare of the entire family.    


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