4392, Camel, Early Tang style; 20th century forgery
Artist: Photographer: Ardon Bar Hama
Dimensions: 13 x 9 x 3 in / 35 x 23 x 9 cm
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), unglazed terracotta figures, called mingqi, were buried with the deceased to show their status and wealth. Larger figures were made in two part moulds, fired, and then covered in white slip and brightly painted. Subjects varied, but might include figures of servants, officials, animals, dancing girls, musicians and foreigners – a colourful menagerie that provides insight into the cosmopolitan culture of Sian, Tang China’s capital.
Camels and horses were considered symbols of comfort because of their connection to the Silk Road. This camel, however, is certainly a twentieth century fake, distinguishable by its flakey paint. Large quantities of forgeries made their way out of China in the political chaos following the 1912 revolution.