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Sancai Glazed Groom


Artist: Unknown Chinese Artist Primary
Date: Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)
Dimensions: 13.25 in. (33.66 cm)
Object Type: Statue
Creation Place: Asia, China
Medium and Support: Glazed earthernware
Credit Line: Gift of Leo Swergold in honor of Jane Swergold, Adjunct Professor, Department of Interior Design (University College), 2011
Accession Number: 2011.01.04
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.



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