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African, Asian, and Islamic Art

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Open Access

Sancai Glazed Groom

Artist: Unknown Chinese Artist Primary
Date: 618-907
7th century to 10th century
Dimensions: 13.25 in. (33.66 cm)
Object Type: Statue
Creation Place: Asia, China
Medium and Support: Glazed earthenware
Credit Line: Gift of Leo Swergold in honor of Jane Swergold, Adjunct Professor, Department of Interior Design (University College), 2011
Accession Number: 2011.01.03
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries

Each groom stands with his right arm raised, as if holding reins. Their lapelled cloaks (glazed in amber and green), and trousers and high boots, mark them as Persians. The figures’ unglazed heads retain discernable traces of their facial features, which were painted directly onto the surface of the earthenware pottery body. Like their costumes, these painted details further underline their foreignness, since the grooms' noses as well as their eyes have a distinctively “Western” appearance. The historical explanation for this is simple: Central Asian grooms (who were more experienced horsemen than the Chinese) managed the horses of the Tang elite, and thus were a familiar sight in Chang’an, the capital under this dynasty. Figures such as these suggest that the deceased was wealth enough to have kept stables with imported horses and grooms, or at least aspired to have done so. Not exclusively for military use, horses were ridden by both male and female aristocrats in Tang China, and polo – another import from the West – was a favorite pastime for both men and women.




Keywords

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Tang
Refers to the culture, style, and period of a Chinese dynasty of the period 618 to 907 CE, a time considered one of the most brilliant in Chinese history. China flourished as a stable, consolidated empire and the resulting prosperity and patronage created a Golden Age of Chinese painting, metalwork, ceramics, music, and poetry. Chang'an, with its masterful urban planning, remained the main Tang capital and a world center. Taizong (reigned 626-649) and Xuanzong (reigned 712-756) were important Tang rulers and patrons. Buddhism remained influential although it suffered periods of persecution during the Tang dynasty. Paintings from the caves at Dunhuang and stone pagodas such as the Great Wild Goose Pagoda (ca. 652) and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda (ca. 707) in Chang'an have survived. Monumental stone sculpture of the northern provinces displays the new tendency toward fuller, more sensual figures. This tendency also found in secular Tang sculpture, both stone and ceramic. The merging of Indian and Chinese sculpture styles is seen at the cave at Mt. Tianlong, created under the patronage of Empress Wu Zetian (reigned 690-705). Painting, which flourished during the Tang, was dominated by the secular landscape tradition. Li Sixum and Li Zhaodao, father and son, and Wang Wei are three painters' names known to us; probable copies of their work exist. Wang Wei's work, influential for later artists, was intimate and melancholy while the work of Li Sixum and Li Zhaodao features the bright greens and blues of many Tang landscapes. Chinese portrait painting, begun in the Han dynasty, was refined in the Tang by such artists as Wu Daozi. Tang ceramics include sancai earthenware figurines and vessels, typically used as tomb objects, white porcellanous wares such as the well-known Xing ware of Henan province, and the jadelike Yue celadons of Zhejiang province. The use of metal oxides in underglaze decoration was developed in Hunan and Sichuanh provinces and porcelain, although not fully exploited until later, has its origins in the Tang period. Tang decorative arts were influenced by Middle Eastern and other foreign trends during the Tang dynasty, leading to new styles in ceramics and metalwork. For instance, colorful glazed earthenware objects such as ewers and rhytons were made to resemble Persian silverwork and Persian weft patterning were introduced to Chinese textiles. China, in turn, exported its pottery, silk, and printing and paper technology. The Tang dynasty was succeeded by the Later Liang dynasty.
statues
Sculpture in the round, usually but not always depicting humans, animals, mythical beings, or small figure groups. Statues are relatively large in scale, being life-size, larger than life-size, or only slightly smaller than life-size. For small-scale representations of humans, animals, or mythical beings, use "figurines," "statuettes," or another appropriate term. For depictions of humans, animals, or mythical beings in media other than sculpture, use "figures (representations)."
public domain
Land owned and controlled by the state or federal government. Also, the status of publications, products, and processes that are not protected under patent or copyright.
sculpture
Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."

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