This haniwa clay model of a horse from 6th-century Japan would have been buried in a tomb on ‘a very grand scale’, explains Japanese Art specialist Mark Hinton. The decoration and detailing suggest it would have been made for a ‘very high-ranking person’, with tombs for such people often being ‘similar in size to a football pitch’.
Haniwa of armoured warriors and horses of the 5th and 6th century A.D. indicate the military power of the ancestors of the imperial line, and show that the horse must have played a major role in the unification struggles and the rise of the Yamato clan.
A haniwa model of a horse. Kofun period (c. 6th century). 93 cm long; 89 cm high. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. This lot is offered in Art of Japan on 8 December 2016 at Christie’s in London, King Street
Although archaeology tells us that there were wild horses in Japan long before the Kofun period when this was made, it is believed that they had never previously been domesticated. The contents of tombs attest that horses and riding accoutrements were brought to Japan from China and Korea around the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century.
‘I think it is a very imposing and rather haunting creature,’ says Hinton of this impressive highlight from the Art of Japan sale on 8 December in London. ‘It gives us an insight into an extraordinary period in the pre-history of Japan.’