A magnificent and massive sancai-glazed model of a Bactrian camel Tang Dynasty

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Lot 28
A magnificent and massive sancai-glazed model of a Bactrian camel
Tang Dynasty

Sold for £ 368,750 (US$ 446,846) inc. premium
A magnificent and massive sancai-glazed model of a Bactrian camel
Tang Dynasty
The camel powerfully modelled in mid-striding pose with its tall hair-lined neck reared back, the head raised and mouth open as if bellowing, exposing its teeth and prominent tongue, the straw-glazed body surmounted by a brilliant green, chestnut and straw-glazed saddle flanked by elaborate bags relief-moulded on each side by a large bulging pack modelled as large grimacing monster mask, surrounded by a raised border suggestive of leather outlined with a pleated scalloped fringe, the thick glaze running down the muscular legs, the camel covered predominantly in amber glaze with the carved details of the fur glazed in brown. 82cm (32 1/4in) high


  • The Property of a Gentleman 士紳藏品

    唐 三彩駱駝俑

    Stephen K. C. Lo, P. C. Lu Works of Art Ltd., Hong Kong, 12 November 1991
    Jean-Yves Ollivier Collection


    The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no.566x71 dated 27 November 1991, is consistent with the dating of this lot.


    Superbly modelled with an arched neck and mouth open wide as it brays, the Ollivier camel is an exceptional example of sancai sculptures created during the Tang dynasty. The extraordinary sense of realism, conveyed by the forward moving posture of the creature, enhanced by the strong and slender legs, highly detailed with tendons and naturalistic tufts of dark fur, and the tall humps, gently swaying to either side of the body, shows a remarkable degree of observation on the sculptor's part which is rarely otherwise encountered on figures of this period to this extraordinary degree.

    The splendid figure would have been individually sculpted and extremely expensive to produce at the time. It would have been commissioned for internment in a burial belonging to an elite member of the Tang society and deemed to become alive for the benefit of its owner. Ancestors in China were deemed active participant to the life of their living offspring, which they could positively influence if provided with continuous care. Miniature universes were thus presented in burials and filled with a variety of necessities disguised as painted, carved or moulded images, which were believed to function like their real counterpart if provided with the correct features (see note 1). Forming an analogical relation with daily forms, these figures embodied important social and ideological aspects of their own time.

    Since its earliest appearance in the form of food and drink vessels, the array of necessities for the afterlife expanded its scope as society evolved and burials became increasingly closer to the spaces and contents of life. This gradual change, initiated during the Warring States period (475–221 BC), probably resulted from the need of addressing an underground bureaucracy that checked the deceased's possessions before granting them entry into an undisturbed afterlife (see note 2). Possibly the forerunner of the practices observed in later times, the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China, was described by Sima Qian, China's most celebrated historian (d.86 BC), as an accurate map of the universe made of miniature replicas of palaces, ever flowing rivers and heavenly bodies (see note 3). Undoubtedly, the impressive array of 8,000 greater than life-size figures of terracotta warriors, each individually styled and all positioned in large pits surrounding the burial chamber, must have been deemed a fundamental element for the emperor's afterlife and probably reflected his fear of being haunted by the evil spirits of the people that he had killed and conquered through his bloody campaigns.

    By the Tang dynasty, the burials constructed for the highest-ranking members of society were decorated in a way that suggested a courtly architectural compound through painted designs of receiving halls, garden settings and official gatherings, and a large amount of pottery figures of courtiers, attendants, entertainers, horses and camels (see note 4). These figures referred to frivolous moments of daily life and appeared in conjunction with a variety of extravagantly shaped vessels and personal ornaments made of gold, silver, and other precious materials, which reflected the prosperity of the empire.

    In appearance, the Ollivier camel recalls the Bactrian camel, which was imported into China from the areas of the Tarim Basin, eastern Turkestan and Mongolia. This species was highly regarded by the Tang emperors who established dedicated offices to oversees the imperial camel herds (see note 5). The heavy load of pouches, ewers and animal meat, so vividly slung between the two humps of the exquisite camel by means of an elaborate structure composed of hinged slats of wood and poles, recalls the importance of foreign trade in Tang China. Referred to as the ships of the desert, camels endured hot temperatures and were the essential method of transport for merchants wishing to conduct trade with the oasis cities of Central Asia, such as Samarkand, Bukhara and Isfahan, along the trading routes of the Silk Road (see note 6).

    Vast riches poured into the Tang capital, Chang'an, from the Silk Road. Merchants came from far afield to acquire silk, bamboo and lacquer wares, and imported perfumes, horse and jewels (see note 7). Different types of food, spices, and wines were also imported in Tang China, as well as exotic musical genres, fashions and literary styles. In the arts, many foreign shapes such as amphorae, bird-headed ewers and rython cups, and decorative motifs, such as hunting scenes, floral medallions, garlands, swags, vines and Buddhist symbols, were imported from Central Asia and the Middle East (see note 8). The recent excavation of thirty-seven tax receipts, recording approximately 600 payments, made in a year at a tax office outside Turfan (present-day Xinjiang), testifies to the fast pace of trading activities during the Tang dynasty. Chang'an had two main markets, referred to as the Eastern and the Western Market, both filled with shops, eateries and tea houses, and additional trading centres were established in the proximity of its main gates (see note 9).

    The animated attitude of this remarkable camel is reminiscent of the running camels vividly depicted on the walls of Crown Prince Zhuanghuai's tomb (d.684), excavated in Qianxian near Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, dated to AD 706, illustrated, in Out of China's Earth: Archaeological Discoveries in People's Republic of China, Beijing, 1981, pl.258.

    Compare also with a large sancai camel, Tang dynasty, similarly modelled in mid-stride and with a saddle suspending mask-shaped sacks over a pleated cushion, from the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, illustrated by W.Watson, The Arts of China to AD 900, Yale, 1995, pp.231, fig.373. Another sancai camel, Tang dynasty, modelled in a similar posture as the present one, is included in the collection of the British Museum (acc.no.1936.1012.228).

    A sancai glazed camel, Tang dynasty, bearing different goods on its pannier, was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30 November 2016, lot 3305; another was sold in Christie's New York, 20 September 2005, lot 191.


    1. J.Rawson, 'The Power of Images: The Model Universe of The First Emperor and Its Legacy,' Historical Research, 2002, vol.75, no.188, pp.123-54.

    2. V.Hansen (1995), Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China: How Ordinary People Used Contracts, 600-1400, New Haven, 1995.

    3. W.Burton, Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian, New York, 1958.

    4. E.L.Johnston, 'Auspicious Motifs In Ninth- To Thirteenth-Century Chinese Tombs', Ars Orientalis, 2005, vol.33, no.2, pp.33-75; see also J.Rawson, 'Creating Universes: Cultural Exchange As Seen In Tombs In Northern China Between the Han and Tang Periods', Between Han and Tang: Cultural and Artistic Interactions in a Transformative Period, Beijing, 2001, pp.113-152.

    5. E.Schloss, Ancient Chinese Ceramic Sculpture, Stamford, 1977, vol.2, p. 220.

    6. E.R. Krauer, The Camel's Load In Life & Death, Cambridge, 1998, pp.50-120.

    7. E.Schafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of Tang Exotics, Berkeley, 1963, pp.7-40.

    8. B.Mater, De Gouden Eeuw Van China: De Tang Dynastie (618-907AD), Assen, 2011, pp.16-68.

    9. V.Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History, London, 2012.



    此件卓越的塑像應為客人特別委託製作,用以陪葬高級貴族,當時便所費不貲,蓋因唐人相信像生之物有復生之靈,能保墓主亡魂不受他擾。中國人認為祖先雖死猶在,只要恭謹對待,先祖便能福蔭後代。故此,墓葬被營造成一個微型寰宇,現實生活中的各類必需品和生活場景或被製作成小型的明器,或被雕刻在壁,或被圖繪上墻。他們相信這些設定能夠像在現實生活中一樣運作(注1)。 因為和日常器物的相似性,陪葬器物往往體現出當時的意識形態和社會生活的方方面面。

    陪葬器物最早僅限於食器和酒器,隨後葬入越來越多的生活必需品,後來整個社會生活都被複製在墓葬中,死後的世界愈發接近生前時空。這個漸變的過程發軔於戰國時期,大概是為了複製一整套社會機制,從制度上保障死者在黃泉續享榮華富貴(注2)。 司馬遷筆下的秦始皇陵為微型寰宇的登峰造極之作,其內宮殿儼然,山川河流,星辰列張,無一不具(注3)。 毫無疑問,八千餘具比真人真馬還大的兵馬俑便是這一黃泉制度的一部分。每個陶俑獨立成像,無一雷同,兵馬坑環繞陵墓排列,或可反映始皇帝身後的恐懼,他征戰一生,刀下亡魂不可勝數。唐代高級貴族的墓葬裝飾美輪美奐,不輸前代,包括繪飾精美的前廳,花園,雅集,伴以大量侍女、內侍、百戲、馬和駱駝等陶俑(注4)。 這些陶俑和各式誇張考究的器皿、金銀及其他貴重金屬飾品,組合一起,重構出墓主生前的浮華生活。

    駱駝被人冠以沙漠之舟的美譽,因其能耐受高溫,故能成為沙漠商旅的基本交通工具,便宜往來絲綢之路沿線的中亞綠洲城市,如撒馬爾罕,布哈拉和伊斯法罕(注5)。 歐氏三彩駱駝乃典型的雙峰駱駝,由塔里木盆地、突厥斯坦東部和蒙古引進中原。唐代君主對此品種情有獨鐘,曾設立專職機構管理皇家駱駝牧場(注6)。駝鞍由木條巧妙釘成,上掛鼓實的行囊、水壺、肉脯、蔬菜、面馕,塑造寫實生動,令人懷想外貿之於唐朝何等重要。

    遠道而來的商人帶來香料、馬匹和珠寶,帶走絲綢、竹器和漆器,財富沿著絲綢之路湧入長安城(注7)。新疆吐魯番外圍地區一個唐代稅收機構遺址新近出土的三十七件稅票記載了一年之內的六百多條交稅記錄,反映出唐代繁榮的商貿活動。長安有兩大市集-東市及西市,其內商戶林立,飯店、茶市和驛站沿著市場大門鱗次櫛比(注8)。 除了引進各種食物、香料和美酒,唐朝更接納了各種異域風情的音樂、時尚和文學體裁。諸多外國器型,如雙龍耳瓶、鳳首壺和來通盃,以及異域裝飾,如狩獵圖、團花紋、環花紋、垂花飾、藤蔓紋和佛教符號從中亞和中東進入中國,成為本地藝術創作的題材(注9)。

    此件三彩駱駝靈動之態與咸陽乾縣章懷太子(684年歿)墓(706年葬)出土壁畫所繪之奔跑駱駝,有異曲同工之妙,見《Out of China's Earth: Archaeological Discoveries in People's Republic of China(中土之外:中華人民共和國考古發現)》,北京:1981,圖版258。參考美國三藩市亞洲藝術博物館所藏一件類似的唐代三彩駱駝,作將走之態,背上披褶邊蓋毯,駝鞍之上懸掛獸面行囊,見W.Watson著,《The Arts of China to AD 900 (中國中古藝術)》,耶魯,1995年,頁231,圖373。大英博物館藏有一件三彩駱駝,步態身形和此件拍品相似,可資參考,館藏編號1936.1012.228。2006年11月30日佳士得香港曾售出一件背負不同商品的唐三彩駱駝,亦資比較,拍品3305號;紐約佳士得於2005年9月20日亦曾售出一件相似的三彩駱駝,拍品191號。

    Oxford Authentication Ltd公司熱釋光檢測結果(1991年11月27日,編號566x71)顯示年代與本拍品年代一致。

    1. J.Rawson,《The power of images: the model universe of the First Emperor and its
    legacy(圖像的力量—秦始皇的模型宇宙及其影響)》,載於《 Historical Research (歷史研究)》,2002年,卷75,第188號,頁123-54。
    2. V.Hansen 韓森,《Negotiating daily life in traditional China: how ordinary people used contracts, 600-1400(傳統中國日常生活中的協商:中古契約研究)》,紐黑文,1995年。
    3. W.Burton, 《司馬遷史記》, 紐約,1958年。
    4. E.L.Johnston, 《Auspicious motifs in ninth-to thirteenth-century Chinese tombs(九至十三世紀中國墓葬中的裝飾)》,載於《Ars Orientalis(東方學)》, 2005年,卷33,第2號,頁33-75; 另見 J. Rawson,《 Creating Universes: cultural exchange as seen in tombs in Northern China between the Han and Tang periods(創建宇宙:漢唐中國北方墓葬中的文化交流)》,載於《漢唐之間·轉變期的文化和藝術互動》,2001年,頁113-152。
    5. E.Schloss,《Ancient Chinese Ceramic Sculpture(中國古代陶瓷塑像)》,史丹福,1977年,卷二,頁220。
    6. E.R. Krauer,《The Camel's Load in Life & Death(駱駝的生死承載—漢唐陶俑的圖像和觀念及其與絲路貿易的關係)》,劍橋,1998年,頁50-120。
    7. E.Schafer 薛愛華, 《The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of Tang Exotics(撒馬爾罕的金桃:唐代舶來品研究)》,伯克利,1963年,頁7-40。
    8. B. Mater, 《De Gouden Eeuw van China: De Tang Dynastie (618-907AD)(中國唐朝的黃金年代)》,阿森,2011年,頁16-68。
    9. V.Hansen 韓森,《The Silk Road: A New History(絲綢之路新史)》,倫敦,2012年。
A magnificent and massive sancai-glazed model of a Bactrian camel Tang Dynasty
A magnificent and massive sancai-glazed model of a Bactrian camel Tang Dynasty
A magnificent and massive sancai-glazed model of a Bactrian camel Tang Dynasty
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