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LOT 1324

GBP (£) 8,000 - 10,000
EUR (€) 9,470 - 11,840
USD ($) 10,210 - 12,770

27" (12.98 kg total, 68.5cm).

A ceramic figure of a Bactrian camel, head held up, mouth open, large mane running down the throat, two humps to the back; detachable saddle with painted decoration in red and green with tassels; on the top a standing male figure, possibly an Armenian, wearing a yellow tunic with a Phrygian cap and trousers; four figures to each corner of the saddle seated cross legged and wearing brown robes, Phrygian caps and playing musical instruments; painted details to the faces. [2]

From the Cheuk family collection.

Camels symbolised the prosperity of the Silk Route—trade routes between China, Europe, and the Middle East—because they were the main form of transportation in the caravans. A popular theme for Tang court painters and sculptors was that of foreign ambassadors submitting tribute to the emperor. Diplomatic missions and the concomitant opulent offerings were an important medium of international exchange. In the dynasty’s first decades, the Tang expanded control north and east to Goguryeo and Baekje in Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, north to the steppes of Mongolia, west to the deserts and oases of Central Asia, and south to parts of the present-day provinces of Guangxi, Yunnan, and northern Vietnam. These and other kingdoms sent staples and exotica: lions from Persia and rhinoceroses from the kingdom of Champa in south and central Vietnam, hawks from the Korean peninsula, ostriches sent by Western Turks, sandalwood from the Indonesian archipelago, cardamom from the coast of the Malay peninsula, indigo from Samarkand, and wool from Tibet. Even entertainers such as musicians, dancers, and performers, as depicted on this piece, were presented as gifts. As is evident in tomb paintings and figurines, international trade whetted a taste for striking and sumptuous fashions among the Tang elite. Leopard-skin hats and close-fitting sleeves, imitating the clothing of Central Asians and Persians to the west, were popular in the mid-eighth century. High boots, practical for riding, were worn by both men and women, as were short tunics.