Celestial Horse

(China, 25-220)


The horse has something to say, and appears to be caught mid-neigh. But many horses made from clay were open-mouthed, not only to show the animal’s spirited nature but also to vent gases when the clay was fired in a kiln.

Why does the horse’s tail flick out and end in a stylized knob? The fancy grooming may have prevented the tail from snagging during a show or while it was on the job as a warrior’s steed.

This was no wild stallion. There are traces of paint—black, red, white—around the eyes and mouth, the neck and mane, and the belly, perhaps the last remnants of painted-on harnesses.

The horse was constructed of nine sections that were separately cast in bronze and later pieced together. You can see the sections in the seams that run around the head, neck, legs, torso, and tail.

You can tell the horse’s age by its color. Once coppery bronze, the surface of the horse has corroded to create brilliant green and blue tones. You can still see large patches of the original copper color around the under-belly of the horse.