It is likely that these figures were made as a series, with differing coat colors. Five examples appear to be extant, including the two in this catalogue. One, nearly identical to the present example, was in the Mottahedeh Collection, illustrated in David Howard and John Ayers, China For the West, 1978, Vol. II, p. 600-601, cat no. 626, and sold in these rooms on October 19, 2000, lot 390. Howard and Ayers point out the resemblance between this figure and one of Castiglione’s portraits of an Imperial steed, Hung Yü Zuo (fig. 1) now in the collection of the National Palace Museum and illustrated in Collected Works of Giuseppe Castiglione, Taipei, 1983, p. 34, pl. 9. The two other examples are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and are illustrated in Rose Kerr and Luisa E. Megoni, Chinese Export Ceramics, London, 2011, p. 78, pl. 111. All five examples originally had later rectangular bases probably added in the late 19th or early 20th century; only the two in the Victoria and Albert Museum have retained their bases.
The provenance of the present horses is of particular interest. Two figures from the collection of Jacob Goldschmidt, one with a chestnut coat and one blue and white piebald, were included in the exhibition Chinesische Kunst, Berlin, 1929, and illustrated as catalogue no. 1030 (fig. 2). In reviewing auction records, the Goldschmidt collection originally included three figures of horses of this type. Two are almost identical, with brindled chestnut coats, and one with blue and white piebald coat. Christie’s London, on June 29th 1938, sold two horses from the Goldschmidt collection, one described as brown with hair markings and the other splashed in blue on a white ground (erroneously described as famille-vert). The remaining chestnut horse from the collection was sold in our London rooms, on July 16th 1957, and subsequently entered the Mottahedeh collection. This has caused some confusion in attribution as to which two horses were included in the 1929 exhibition in Berlin, as all three horses were catalogued with this particular exhibition history, in 1938 and 1957 respectively. It is most likely that the present figures are the same ones that were included in the 1929 exhibition (the present blue and white piebald horse is identifiable from the catalogue illustration), and sold together at Christie’s London in 1938, while the remaining horse was retained and sold later in 1957 (and not included in the exhibition). The two present examples were sold in London as separate lots by Sotheby’s and Christie’s, three days apart in November 1983, and were reunited after that date.
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