While horses have long been associated with power and wealth in China, as those most sought after were imported or sent as tribute gifts from Central Asia, jade carvings of horses in reclining poses first appeared in the Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan dynasties (1279-1368), such as one in the British Museum, London, illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pl. 26:15, where the author notes that these carvings have been traditionally attributed to the Tang dynasty (618-907) despite the lack of similar excavated examples. Furthermore, it appears that jade carvings of horses straining their head to nibble on their back or hoof are modelled after depictions of horses in similar poses in contemporary paintings and wood block illustrations, which are known from the Yuan dynasty. See for example the painting Eight Horses on Pasture Enjoying their Freedom by Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), published Osvald Sirén, Chinese Painting. Leading Masters and Principles, vol. 6, London, 1958, pl. 15.
A similar yellow jade carving of a reclining horse from the Mary and George Bloch and the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat collections, was sold at Christie’s in 1974, in our New York rooms in 1989 and twice in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 51, and 8th April 2014, lot 3061; another from the collection of Dr Ip Yee, was included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 163; two were sold in our London rooms, the first, from the collection of Lord Arlington, 29th November 1993, lot 30, and the second, 7th June 1994, lot 104; and a mottled white jade example is illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 33.
Further similar carvings include one sold in our New York rooms, 9th December 1987, lot 171; another from the collection of Victor Farmer sold at Christie’s London, 8th June 2004, lot 456; a third sold at Christie’s New York, 29th November 1990, lot 12; and a larger horse from the collection of the Earl and Countess of Jersey, sold in our London rooms, 16th May 2012, lot 28.
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