A painted pottery camel and rider

A painted pottery camel and rider


Tang dynasty
Height: 22 in, 55.9 cm

The animal stands four-square on a rectangular pottery base with its proud head and separate tail raised; its bears a frilled saddlecloth. The well-modelled foreign rider has a short lock of hair falling on his forehead, bulbous eyes beneath heavy brows, a broad nose, high cheekbones and full lips. He wears a tight-fitting, round-necked robe, split for ease of riding, over trousers and high boots. The buff earthenware bears extensive remains of original white, orange, red and black pigments.

This dating is consistent with a thermoluminescence test.

Formerly in an English private collection.

While figures of camels and riders are known, this Central Asian rider with his distinctive hairstyle and foreign features is rare, but see a similar figure on a camel in Scheurleer, Asiatic Art in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, no. 24, pp. 48–9. Note also a Sui example from the tomb (dated AD 597) of Hulü Che, Taiyuan, Shanxi province, and now in the collection of the Shanxi Institute of Archaeology, in Watt et al, China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD, no. 144, pp. 247–8.

For a detailed history of pottery figures of camels, see Knauer, The Camel’s Load in Life and Death.