Chinese Han Dynasty Polychrome Terracotta Deer Sculpture


A large-sized Chinese, terracotta figure depicting a naturalistically rendered, standing deer, dated to the Han Dynasty. The potter has created a strong physique, with attention to both the musculature and the anatomical features. These are reflected in its curved shape, which is reminiscent of Han practices of depicting animals in terracotta. The deer’s face is particularly striking, with bulging eyes that seem to be looking intently at something in the distance. The ears are pricked, adding a touch of alertness to the animal’s appearance. The deer’s snout is distinctive, featuring flared nostrils and a slightly open mouth. The hooves are also finely crafted with details, with linear grooves depicting the notched foot. To the reverse of the deer’s body, a short, tapering tail is sculpted. The deer is covered in a rich ochre pigment, with detailing added in red and black. A rare piece of unusually large size.

Date: Circa 206 BC - AD 220
Period: The Han Dynasty
Provenance: From the collection of a West Country gentleman, formed in 1970s. This piece has been Thermo Luminescent tested and TL certificate no: C122f88 will accompany this lot.
Condition: Very good condition, some original pigment visible to the surface.


Ancient Chinese terracotta statuettes, naturalistically depicted as animals and human figures that are displayed in tombs, are known as Mingqi or “spirit goods”, having been made to serve the decedents in their afterlife. Originally popularized during the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), Mingqi endured the turbulent Six Dynasties period (220–589) and resurged following the subsequent reunification of China under the Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties.

Deer, both female and male, were among the most favoured repertoires that were sculpted in ancient China. Deers have been used as a symbol of longevity, nobility, and harmony within traditional Chinese culture.

Weight 7250 g
Dimensions L 59.6 x W 51.0 cm




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