Pottery horse and rider

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€ 9500

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Western Han Dynasty, 206 BC - 25 AD
Earthenware with pigment
37.5 cm
9.5 cm
34 cm

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This beautifully proportioned terracotta dark horse with its rider is painted in bright red and white. The strong and fierce horse is standing four square, with alert ears and a closed mouth. The finely painted rider is wearing a red tunic, with a white harness and black helmet. In his closed hands are holes, to hold the reins or to hold a weapon like a spear or bow. He is sitting on a white saddle, with red painted spikes. The combination of the small rider and the large horse highlights the cultural importance of horses in the history of China; horses were revered and of great significance in both battle and recreation. The animals played an important part in the expansion and protection of the empire.

The horse and his rider were 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 and rider 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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