VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Standing Ferghana Horse
Vp 4128
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This remarkably large and majestic figure of a Ferghana horse is a superb example of Tang period tomb sculpture, which in various ways represented a pinnacle in funerary art. A shift towards greater plasticity and realistic depiction was typical of this period. Emphasis was laid on capturing the figures’ dynamism and natural movement, which was no longer simply expressed in the posture and arrangement of the limbs, but reflected motion coming from within the figure itself. All these qualities are discernible in this horse figure, which is marked by mature modelling and a natural stance. The horse is portrayed in a relaxed position, with its head inclined toward the left hoof. Importance is given to the elegant curve of the long neck with a thick, perfectly groomed mane. The figure of the riderless horse is coated with a three-colour glaze; the green-hued saddle and ornamental trappings set against the horse’s brown body are particularly worthy of attention. The animal’s faultless bodily proportions, noble head and a certain inner tension emanating from the overall posture indicate the extraordinary vitality, strength and temperament of this breed originating in the Ferghana region in central Asia. Large herds of them were imported to China over the centuries. These horses were extremely popular with Chinese emperors and high dignitaries. They served not only as representative symbols of the emperors' and the senior officials’ power, but also as military horses, for they facilitated the rapid and comfortable transportation of warriors.

History of the Object
The exceptional popularity and importance of Ferghana horse breeding under the rule of the Tang Dynasty was manifested in the production of funerary figures. In terms of quantity and artistic quality, horse statues were among the most outstanding of such objects. The National Gallery’s Collection of Oriental Art owns a group of eight other figures of Tang horses. Their aesthetic qualities and variability of body postures, executed to capture dynamic movement in great diversity, renders these figures superb examples of Tang dynasty tomb sculpture. The Ferghana horse sculpture was purchased from the original collection of Josef Martínek (1888–1976), one of the most distinguished Czech collectors of Chinese art. In the early years of the 20th century, Martínek moved to China and in the 1920s he worked as the director of the British customs office in Shanghai. During his sojourn in China, he intensively devoted himself to collecting Asian art. He focused his efforts on tomb figures, ancient bronzes, Buddhist art and painting. In 1930 and 1931, he organized exhibitions in Prague, thus arousing the Czech public’s interest in Chinese art. In 1930, the Czechoslovak State purchased a part of Martínek’s collection. Objects from his collection can also be found in other European museums.

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Type
Ceramics 
Materials
Fired clay, Sancai three-colour glaze 
Measurements
Height 64 cm, length 60 cm, width 22 cm 
Creator name
Unknown potter 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 7th century ~ AD 10th century 
Creation date
7th Century - 10th Century; Tang Dynasty (618-907) 
Function
Tomb sculpture 
Acquisition
Purchased in 2008, originally in the collection of Josef Martínek (1888-1976) , first shown in Prague in 1931. 
Copyright
The National Gallery in Prague 
Acknowledgements
Petra Polláková 
Owner
Czech Republic, The National Gallery in Prague 
Museum
The National Gallery 
Credit line
The National Gallery in Prague 

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