Heritage Treasure: Tang Dynasty Painting “A Hundred Horses”January 21st, 2010 by Staff
Section of the Tang dynasty handscroll “A Hundred Horses”
The handscroll “A Hundred Horses,” ink on silk, was by an unknown artist of the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE). It shows horses in various poses: galloping, charging, rolling on the ground, feeding, etc. There are altogether 41 grooms in the picture and they are engaged in a variety of tasks such as riding, leading and brushing the horses. People and animals in the painting are all doing different things. Their movements are natural and elegant.
The imperial family of the Tang dynasty, surnamed Li, was of part Turkic origin from Central Asia. From the emperors down, the ruling elites were passionate about the horse. The horse was the subject of numerous art works: sculptures, paintings and tomb murals. One can guess that the artist who painted this scroll was very fond of this animal and observed its moods and movements closely.
This painting measures 26.7 cm x 302.1 cm. This means that it is very wide. It is a handscroll, which is an ancient genre in Chinese art. The handscroll is stored in a roll. When a viewer opens the scroll to appreciate it, one end is unrolled. But as more of the scroll is exposed at one end, the other end is rolled up. In the days before movies and television, the handscroll was the ultimate motion picture.
Although the title of this masterpiece is “A Hundred Horses” there are actually only 95 horses and one monkey. Can you find the monkey?