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A Haniwa Model of a Horse
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more Property Formerly in an Academic’s Collection Formed in the 1960s
A Haniwa Model of a Horse


A Haniwa Model of a Horse
Kofun period (6th - 7th century)
Of low-fired clay, modelled as a standing horse wearing a saddle and bridle, the mane tied in a knot at the forehead
102cm. high
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These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

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Anastasia von Seibold
Anastasia von Seibold

Lot Essay

The result of the Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. N114k30 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

This haniwa horse was excavated in the 1950s in the Namegata region, Ibaraki prefecture.

Haniwa of armoured warriors and horses of the 5th century AD 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. Interestingly the Kojiki records that a pair of horses was sent as a gift from Korea to the Emperor Ojin (c. 300) together with Korean grooms. Although archaeology tells us that there were wild horses in Japan long before the Kofun period, it is believed that they were never previously domesticated. That horses and riding accoutrements were brought from China and Korea around the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th century is attested by tomb contents which include both imported objects and objects made in Japan virtually identical to those found in Korean mounds of the same period. Representations of haniwa of horses are often found sculpted in such detail as to enable the positive identification of metal fragments of horse trappings found buried in the stone chambers of some tombs.

The celebrated haniwa of a caparisoned horse in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum which was recorded by Gowland has since been enhanced with the addition of formerly missing parts of the harness, mane and tail. Now restored to its original condition it can be seen as a close relative of this fine haniwa here. The importance of the horse to the early Yamato Emperors ensured that it would forever be associated with the Shinto pantheon, and to this day a pair of horses, a black and a grey of pure white, are kept in the shrine of the Sun Goddess at Ise, reflecting the events of fifteen hundred years ago, and thus preserving the grand scheme of the gods as portrayed in the early unification myths.

Similar examples with a saddle are in the collection of Tokyo National Museum,, reference number J-838 (Important Cultural Property), J-5769, J-20684, J-21154, J-36736.

For further examples, see:
Junkichi Mayuyama ed., Japanese Art in the West, (Tokyo, 1966), no. 430 (Musée Guimet, France), no. 431 (The Art Gallery, Indiana University, USA) and no. 432 (The Art Institute of Chicago, USA)

Another example sold at Christie’s London, Asobi: Ingenious Creativity, 15th October 2013, lot 4.

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