About This Artwork


Equestrienne, Tang dynasty (A.D. 618–907), c. 725/750

Earthenware with polychrome pigments
56.2 x 48.2 x 39.0 cm (22 1/8 x 19 x 15 3/8 in.)

Gift of Mrs. Potter Palmer, 1970.1073

Chinese ceramic figures made exclusively for burial often vividly evoke the fashions and recreational activities of their aristocratic owners. This figure sensitively captures a quiet moment in the life of a matronly equestrienne, who gently guides her horse. The animal’s powerful neck and flanks, long legs, trimmed mane, and decoratively tied tail are features distinctive to the handsome breeds that were brought to China from the empire’s northwestern frontiers, as well as from sites as far west as the Aral Sea. Carefully twisted strands of clay realistically depict the furlike texture of the animal’s saddle blanket. The woman’s full proportions—evident in the folds of her flowing, wide-sleeved robe, as well as in her plump cheeks and double chin—are enhanced by her loosely gathered coiffure, which is topped with a dangling forehead bun. Her weight, costume, and hairstyle reflect early-to-mid-eighth-century ideals of feminine beauty. Stylistically, the woman closely resembles figures that archeologists have recently unearthed from the tombs of high-status individuals that are datable to about 740.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 99.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Archives of Asian Art, 1970, p. 108-109.
Chen Wanli, Tao Yong [Ceramic Figures]. Beijing: Zhongguo gudian yishu chubanshe, 1957, pl. 50.

Elinor Pearlstein and James T. Ulak, Asian Art in the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago / Harry N. Abrams, 1993), p. 148, p. 44, 46 (ill.).

Virginia L. Bower, “Two Masterworks of Tang Ceramic Sculpture,” Orientations 24, 6 (June 1993), pp. 75-77, cover (ill.), p. 75, fig. 11.

Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide (rev. ed). Art Institute of Chicago, 2003, p. 68 (ill.).

Patricia Buckley Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p.144, p. 115 (ill.).

Art Insitute of Chicago: Essential Guide, rev. ed. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2009) p.85.

Ownership History

Ex collection: Potter Palmer II

Interpretive Resources

View mobile website