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A SET OF SIX CHINESE LARGE PAINTED RED POTTERY ZODIAC FIGURES
A SET OF SIX CHINESE LARGE PAINTED RED POTTERY ZODIAC FIGURES
A SET OF SIX CHINESE LARGE PAINTED RED POTTERY ZODIAC FIGURES
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A SET OF SIX CHINESE LARGE PAINTED RED POTTERY ZODIAC FIGURES
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A SET OF SIX CHINESE LARGE PAINTED RED POTTERY ZODIAC FIGURES

TANG DYNASTY (618-907)

Details
A SET OF SIX CHINESE LARGE PAINTED RED POTTERY ZODIAC FIGURES
TANG DYNASTY (618-907)
Modeled with animal heads supported on human bodies, each wearing loose robes with long sleeves, their hands held together at their chests, with traces of white pigment overall, the heads depicting the horse (wu), the rabbit (mao), the ox (chou), the tiger (yin), the rat (zi), and the cockerel (you)
23 in. (58.4 cm.) high, the largest figure
Provenance
Anonymous sale, Sotheby's New York, 27 March 2003, lot 35.

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Lot Essay

Zodiac figures represent the Chinese repeating twelve year cycle calendar in which each year is associated with a different animal. The twelve animals are comprising: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In the Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 220) artisans would cast these animal representations in bronze as offerings. Beginning in the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534 AD) the zodiac figures presented with human bodies, such as in the present lot, became funerary sculpture that would be molded either in standing or kneeling positions.

Compare a similar yet smaller set of twelve painted pottery zodiac figures in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, several of which have been exhibited throughout the years, including the monkey in Monkey Business: Celebrating the Year of the Monkey (2016). Another set from the Shaanxi History Museum, Xi'an, was exhibited in the China, 5000 Years: Innovation and Transformation in the Arts, at the Guggenheim Museum, New York 1998.


The results of Oxford thermoluminescence tests from February 14, 2001 (C101r96 and C101r97) are consistent with this dating.

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