This large and elegantly proportioned horse embodies the power of this celebrated animal. The most magnificent breed, immortalized in Chinese literature and the visual arts, was the Ferghana horse, introduced into central China from the West during the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). These were the fabled 'celestial' or 'blood-sweating' horses, known for their speed, power, and stamina. The renowned court artist Han Gan (720-60) changed the nature of Chinese horse painting when he depicted one of Emperor Xuanzong's (r. 847-59) favorite horses, Night-Shining White (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), in a realistic rather than supernatural manner. This development parallels the realism of Tang arts in general, and is exemplified by this magnificent horse.
The most unusual feature of the horse is its stylish mane, combed into pointed locks of three alternating colors. This effect was difficult to achieve, given the tendency of sancai glazes to run. A very similar horse with a combed mane of alternating colors is illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, Tokyo, 1976, no. 202, and also illustrated in Zhongguo taoci daxi: Han Tang taoci daquan, Taipei, 1987-89, p. 224.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C102b82 is consistent with the dating of this lot.