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An earthenware figurine of a man riding a horse. The man wears a tall, detailed hat and a pointed, wrapped jacket. The horse is facing the left of the viewer and its hooves are all on a small plinthe.

An earthenware figurine of a man riding a horse on a grey faded background. The man wears a tall, detailed hat, a pointed, wrapped jacket, and pants. Both of his hands are bent up by his sides. The horse is facing the left of the viewer while the man’s body turns to face the viewer. The horse’s hooves are all on a small plinthe and it has a short, pointed tail. The entire figuring is mottled off-white and red.

Gallery Text

After the collapse of the Han dynasty in 220 CE, China entered a long period of disunion in which the north was occupied and at times ruled by ethnic minorities. The custom of producing ceramic tomb sculptures nevertheless carried on throughout this period, reaching its pinnacle in the Tang dynasty (618–907), one of the most peaceful, prosperous, cosmopolitan eras in China’s history. The Tang capital of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an, Shaanxi province) attracted numerous foreign traders, pilgrims, and goods, as the famed overland trade route known as the Silk Road terminated in this city. Large sets of ceramic sculptures representing the horses, camels, and foreign merchants that frequented northern China have been recovered from burials. Tang ceramic funerary retinues were especially elaborate, featuring fierce armored guards, proud court attendants, and aristocratic equestrians engaged in leisurely pursuits—all serving to demonstrate the high status of the tomb occupant. Large monster masks such as the one displayed here have been discovered on the lintels of tomb entrances, presumably as a means to ward off evil.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Equestrian Male, from the tomb sculpture set: Two Equestrian Figures, One Male with a Tall, Elaborately Embellished Hat, One Female with Hair in a Topknot, Both with Pointed Boots, and Hands Positioned to Hold the Reins of their Standing, Saddled Horses
Work Type
funerary sculpture
first half 8th century
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Molded, reddish buff earthenware with cold-painted pigments over white ground
H. 37 x W. 30.5 x D.15.5 cm (14 9/16 x 12 x 6 1/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Anthony M. Solomon, New York (by 2003), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2003.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Anthony M. Solomon
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Virginia Bower, From Court to Caravan: Chinese Tomb Sculptures from the Collection of Anthony M. Solomon, exh. cat., ed. Robert D. Mowry, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., 2002), pp. 121-123, cat. no. 39
  • Robert D. Mowry, "Selected Chinese Funerary Sculptures from the Collection Presented to the Harvard University Art Museums by Anthony M. Solomon", Orientations, Orientations Magazine Ltd. (Hong Kong, September 2004), vol. 35, no. 6, pp. 73-75, p. 75, fig. 3 (left)

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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