A Pair of Chinese Painted Terracotta Female Polo Players with Horses
A pair of fine hollow-mould Chinese terracotta female equestrians, each portrayed astride a galloping horse, with their heads turned towards each other. The female polo players are shown sitting on the horses, and display typical characteristics of court ladies of the Tang Dynasty. Their faces are sensitively painted with elaborate details, they have elongated eyes, pointed noses, dimpled chins and crisply carved mouths painted in red. Their rosy, full cheeks and make up indicate their status in the imperial court, which might be as princesses or concubines. Their elaborate coiffures are drawn up into a loose loop which hangs slightly forward. Their hands are raised to grasp the polo sticks which they would once have held. The galloping hollow-moulded horses feature well-defined ears, eyes, noses and nostrils. Their eyes, saddles and trappings have been added in black pigment. The horses extend their legs in a dynamic pose in mid-air to give the illusion of the action of a polo game. The original pigmentation survives largely intact.
Date: Circa AD 618-906 Period: Tang Dynasty Condition: Excellent condition.
Terracotta figurines depicting female polo players riding a galloping horse have been found in the burials of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-906 ), with the display of large numbers of figurines and a wide variety of types indicating the high social class that the burial occupants occupied during their lives. Terracotta figurines that have been found in Chinese tombs have been associated with the belief in a ‘life-after-death’; they were intended to provide service for the deceased in the afterlife. The term polo might have derived from the Tibetan word, pulu, initially referring to the wood from which a game ball was made. Polo in Tang China was an imperial game, with both court women and men participating in this activity. Polo seems to have first emerged in China towards the end of Han Dynasty (circa 206 BC – AD 220 ), and grew in popularity in the early Tang Dynasty under the cultural influence from the Xian’bei, a nomadic tribe of North-eastern China.
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