China, Tang Dynasty, ca. 600-800 CE. This is a sancai glazed hollow dromedary camel with saddle and saddle bags. The saddle bags are in the shape of a grotesque face with bulding jowls. "Sancai" means "three colors" and is a type of decoration in Chinese pottery using intermingled colors for decoration; it is diagnostic of the Tang Dynasty. A piece like this would have been made by using white clay and firing them, then applying glaze tinted with copper for green and iron for amber/brownish yellow. Three major kilns in northern China were responsible for making these pieces, which were designed to go into the tombs of Tang aristocracy. Burial wares were fired at lower temperatures and cast in sections in molds with the parts put together using clay slip. Many of these pieces have degrees of individuality that come from hand carving of smaller features like, in this case, the face of the camel and the face on the saddle bags. The Tang Dynasty was a thrilling time in Chinese history, when trade flourished along the Silk Routes and unified China was the richest country on earth. Chang'an (now Xi'an) was the Tang capital, and it was one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth, filled with foreigners who had travelled to China to trade; the influence of foreigners and talented native Chinese, combined with the economic prosperity brought on by trade and the new religion from India, Buddhism, created a powerful cultural milieu where poetry and other forms of art flourished. This camel is a reminder of the importance of trade; the dromedary is native to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa and was used as a pack animal on the overland Silk Routes. Size: 6" L x 3" W x 7.5" H (15.2 cm x 7.6 cm x 19 cm)
Provenance: Ex-private Simonian collection, Los Angeles, CA, acquired before 1982.
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