A PAINTED CERAMIC FUNERARY MODEL OF A BACTRIAN CAMEL WITH A GROOM
China, Tang dynasty
The camel with the four legs resting on a rectangular base, on the back between the humps a saddle adorned on the two sides with a relief animal mask, the groom with his arms raised at the height of the abdomen and the fists originally closed to hold the reins, the head slightly turned to the left, on the head a conical hat, thick mustache and long beard.
55 cm the highest
Provenance: Fabrizio Savi collection, acquired from Galerie Moderne, Bruxelles, on 22 march 2000.
The Chinese have been familiar with the Bactrian camels since times long before the Tang dynasty, present in artistic iconography quite frequently. Caravans with these animals moved safely along the sometimes difficult territories of the Silk Road, until they reached Chang'an, the capital of the empire, then one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It was therefore not unusual to see people coming from far away, very different not only in costumes but also in physical appearance. For example, the groomsman here discussed is certainly a foreigner, recognizable as such because of his prominent nose, thick beard and cone-shaped hat. The inclusion of statuettes (mingqi) depicting animals and strangers in funerary context thus demonstrates the cultural openness of Tang society and, at the same time, the fascination of its intellectual and political élite for iconographic elements of exotic taste.
* The thermoluminescence carried out on 9/2/2000 from the Brussels Art Laboratory. Nuclear Section. Institut Superieur Industriel de Bruxelles confirms the proposed dating.