Pair of Chinese Tang Imperial Guards on Horseback



An extremely fine pair of terracotta Imperial guards sat upon hollow-moulded horses dated to the Tang period. Each horse is posed powerfully advancing forward with its neck gracefully arched. The facial features have been modelled in a naturalistic manner featuring pricked ears, open mouths and prominent eyes painted in black pigment. The guards, with an aggressive expression, are perched on top of the saddles with both arms raised. The men are enriched with a brown beast skin sat upon their heads.

Item A is accompanied by a positive Kotalla Laboratory thermoluminescence report no.32CM180321, and by an academic expertise by military specialist Dr. Raffaele D’Amato. It has also been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10811-178529.

N.B. Please enquire for our best accumulative price for the pair.

Date: Circa 618-906 AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
Provenance: From a West Country, UK, collection; formerly with a Bath, UK, gallery, 1990s.
Condition: Excellent condition, with original pigments still visible. Item A; the beast ears and one of the horse’s ears have been repaired. Slight chip on the top of the head.
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Grave goods were an important status symbol in ancient China, so the affluent and important would be accompanied in their travels through the afterlife with numerous depictions of people, items and animals. Terracotta warrior/guard figures, such as this fine example, were originally placed at each side of the entrance of the tomb gate, which was located at the end of a long underground ramp used to expel evil spirits and to protect the deceased resting peacefully. Such statues were usually portrayed with ferocious foreign facial and anatomical features: to ensure the best protection for the deceased, such statuettes were modelled to represent the powerful foreigners that the Tang Dynasty often had to battle with.

To discover more about Tang statuettes, please visit our relevant blog post: Terracotta Tomb Attendants.

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