Closing this weekend in theAndoGallery, The Year of the Horse celebrates Chinese New Year and this year's featured animal within the Chinese zodiac. As far back as the 3rd century B.C., animals have been associated with each year in a 12 year cycle and their respective characteristics are supposed to relate to the attributes of humans born in that year. The horse is associated with strength, energy, intelligence, communication, and popularity, but also impatience and stubbornness. This year of the horse officially began at the end of January and lasts until the next Chinese New Year in February 2015.
Horses have been long revered in Asian culture and this small exhibition includes several prints that show young men on horseback. In the image above, the youthful rider takes part in "first riding," an element of the coming-of-age ceremonies for a boy of the samurai class. He tentatively rides the prancing horse, while a maid carrying a parasol shields the rider from the sun.
It also features a new acquisition, a pair of folding screens (shown both above and below) from the turn of the 18th century that each measure over 12 feet long. These panels illustrate an expansive tableau with six tethered horses in various energetic positions. Several other horses are in the process of being washed by grooms in the lake between the buildings. Other groups of people work, nap, and even play board games in this idyllic scene. Screens like this one were popular at this time and were often commissioned by warriors to show off their horses, their prized possessions, or to remind them of military culture.
The Year of the Horse closes this Sunday and might be particularly interesting to those of you born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, and 2002.
Suzuki Harunobu. The Young Horseman, c. 1766/67. Clarence Buckingham Collection.
Horses in Stables (Umaya-zu byobu), c. 1688-1704 (Genroku Period). Japanese. Shinkokai Japanese Art Acquisition Fund, The Mary and Leigh Block Endowment Fund, Gookin FUnd, restricted gift of Roger L. Weston; Avery L. Brundage and Roger L. Weston funds.