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Close Reading of an Artwork

Non-Western: Neighing Horse-Tang Dynasty Macy Huang Period 3
by

Macy Huang

on 3 February 2013

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Transcript of Close Reading of an Artwork

By: Macy Huang A Close Reading of Background The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was a period in Chinese history in which culture and the arts flourished.
It was a golden age of literature and art as there was prodigious development of unique forms of painting, sculpture, calligraphy, music, dance and literature.
The artist for the Neighing Horse is unspecified, but Tang ceramists in general were renowned for their earthenware figures of people, domesticated animals, and fantastic creatures for burial tombs.
It was under the Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–756), called the Brilliant Monarch, that Tang art truly lived up to its rank as the classical period of Chinese art and literature; it set the high standard to which later poets, painters, and sculptors aspired. Formal Analysis The Neighing Horse is decorated with colorful lead glazes.
The tendency of glaze to run in in dramatic streams down an object's side when it was fired accounts for the splashed effects and mingling of the colors that give this Sancai horse its exuberant effect.
Developed during the seventh century, the new colors of this technique were achieved by mixing metal oxides to a lead fluxed glaze.
The oxides included copper for green and iron for amber or brownish yellow. Together with a clear, cream glaze, they provided the three basic colors but, on rare occasions, expensive cobalt oxide for blue was added to the mix.
The composition of the Neighing Horse is sculpted earthenware and multicolored glaze with a luxuriously presented mane and attractive saddle. Contextual Analysis Three Tang northern kilns were responsible for producing the majority of lead-glazed Sancai or "three-color" ware that furnished the tombs of the aristocracy for more than one hundred and fifty years of the Tang Dynasty.
It is assumed that three-color ware was reserved for burial ware and was seldom, if ever, used in daily life.
Sancai traveled along the Silk Road, and was later extensively used in Syrian, Cypriot, and Italian pottery from the 13th to 15th century.
Sancai also became a popular style in Japanese and other East Asian ceramic arts. Comparison of Images The subjects of Tang figurines were much more diverse than those of earlier periods, including not only horses and animals, but also civil officers and a broad range of foreigners such as Semitic traders and Central Asian musicians on camels, providing accurate reflections of the increased cosmopolitanism of Tang China. Image Identification Neighing Horse, Tang dynasty, eighth to ninth century. Glazed earthenware, 1’ 8” high. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Contextual Analysis Continued... Comparison Continued... It was in the making of functional ceramics for daily use and export that Tang ceramists and potters actually achieved their greatest technical innovations and artistic refinements.
They invented porcelain, underglaze painted décor, phosphatic glazes, and perfected high-fired celadon.
Their interest in single color wares, especially white ware, brown ware, celadon, and cobalt blue laid the groundwork for Song (960-1279) Dynasty's taste in monochrome glazes, refined ceramic shapes, and splashed brown and black wares. Background Continued... In comparison to many of the previous Chinese dynasties, rife with conflict and rebellion, the Tang era had the stable rule and consolidated central authority necessary for an efflorescence of progress to be made in the artistic and cultural fields.
Overall, highlighted by strong and benevolent rule, successful diplomatic relationships, economic expansion, and a cultural blossoming of worldly style, Tang China emerged as one of the greatest empires in the medieval world. The foreign facial features of this brilliantly sculpted tomb guardian figure are evidence of the strong Western presence in Tang-dynasty China. Many of these Tang earthenware tomb figurines reflected the wealth of the deceased as the Neighing Horse does, representing the political power and superiority of the owner.
They were also used as tomb guardians, holding an apotropaic (intended to ward off evil) function in burial ceremonies.
In the image depicted below, the pair of tomb guardians mirror the description of in the Lokapala deity of the Buddhist religion, which came to China from the West, illustrating the increasingly prevalent power of Buddhism in Chinese art and society. Formal Analysis Continued... The horse was popular in Chinese art as a symbol reflecting the importance emperors placed on the quality of their stables.
The breed that this Neighing Horse is is powerful in build, with rich harnesses and saddles, a testament to the rider's nobility.
The images of strong horses (and numerous camels) in art also indicate the prosperity of commerce and trade at that time.
In a similar Tang horse ceramic sculpture (shown below), a tri-color glaze in green, yellow, and white was used.
It acts as further evidence of the popularity of the horse as a subject during the Tang dynasty as riding styles of the nobility changed (riding on a horse rather than in a carriage). Comparison of Images Continued... Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius (175 CE)
Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata (1453) Neighing Horse (8th-9th century) meant to portray the Emperor as victorious and all-conquering
also a symbol of peace as Marcus Aurelius is shown without weapons or armor, so he seems to be a bringer of peace rather than a military hero, for this is how he saw himself and his reign commissioned to commemorate Erasmo da Narni, a powerful and Venetian nobleman and mercenary
His military victories were well-known throughout the Italian city-states, and his family was well respected.
demonstrates da Narni's military prowess and fame
horse less naturalistic are all symbols of power and high rank in their respective civilizations gestures are more vivid and natural colorful earthenware
no rider on horse
used in burials to symbolize the owner's wealth and noble status
real portrait of the social life and trade networks of the Tang Dynasty -large-scale, bronze
-glorify the riders' illustriousness and power
-classicism more related to military power and economic trade
(roots in Tang Emperor's stables/ da Narni's victories & Tang commerce/ Italian merchants) Bibliography books.google.com/books?isbn=0495573671
http://history.cultural-china.com/en/55History405.html
http://instructional1.calstatela.edu/bevans/Art101/Art101B-10-China/WebPage-Info.00030.html
http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/ceramics-tang.php
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/tang/hd_tang.htm Neighing Horse
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