Bois (matériau), Polychromie
The Tang emperors were keen to develop military stud farms. It is estimated that troops were in the possession of some 5,000 horses in the early period of the dynasty, and 700,000 by the mid 7th century. The requisitioning of stallions from Ferghana and efforts to control the routes along the Silk Road prompted a renewal of the expansion policy in central Asia initiated by the Western Han (206 BC-AD 9). The emperor Taizong (627-649) decreed the systematic conquest of the principalities of the Tarim Basin.
The establishment of garrisons and then prefectures at the western border area would change funeral rites. Tomb furnishings now included mingqi that were more or less inspired by the ones produced near the capital.
It is not known where the Cernuschi Museum’s impressive group was produced. Although made of metasequoia and not spruce like the Wuwei pieces, the remarkable state of conservation of the two pieces suggests they come from Gansu, in the western marches of the empire, because of the very dry climate there.
While the horse has an unusually intense expressiveness among contemporary ceramic wares, the groom is a specimen of a known type of “Barbarian” servant, with rolled back cap and wearing a caftan, part of which is still present on the side.
The horse was acquired at the Biennale des Antiquaires in 1990 at the request of the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, in a move to support the Paris art market.
Marie-Thérèse Bobot, Chine connue et inconnue, Paris Musées, 1992, p.140-141.