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Subject:CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Bill H Fri, Jan 20, 2023 IP: 64.187.128.166

This photo showing a bronze finial sculpted in the form of a "Celestial or Heavenly Horse" (Tianma - 天馬) is alleged to date to the 4th century Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in North China. It came my way via a long time acquaintance and friend, an art appraiser with scant experience in things Chinese, who'd received it from a client interested in knowing whether he was correctly informed by the seller. I recall that Time Magazine did a cover story in the late 1960s, after archeologists in China's Gansu province dug up a bronze horse that they called the "Ten Thousand league horse" (Qianlima - 千里馬) ). My search for information on Google turned up a couple of identical images and accompanying information, much of it apparently stemming from the Museum Journal published by the University of Pennsylvania.

I'm intrigued by the fact that my friend has run up on this particular horse, which can only be found online in one instance of a finial that almost certainly resides in a museum collection. I'm speculating that the piece has been remanufactured in modern times and sold in the gift shop of whatever museum has it.

Anyone in the forum have any experience in this area? All comments welcome.

Best regards,

Bill H.




Link :CELESTIAL HORSE-TIANLIMA


Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Steve Gridley Sat, Jan 21, 2023

The first thing I would do is obtain exact measurements of the museum horse (which seems to have been properly authenticated) and compare with dimensions of your horse. If it is a cast of the original it should be slightly smaller unless the sizes differ considerably. I would also perform a non-destructive test (such as XRF) on both for elemental consistency. If both were produced in a close time frame in the same area, they both would likely have similar elemental signatures.

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Bill H Sat, Jan 21, 2023

I'll see if the measurements are available and report back,

Thanks,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Bill H Sun, Jan 22, 2023

I erred in my supposition that the finial might be a reproduction before contacting my appraiser friend, but looking through his emails to me on the subject, I discovered I'd missed one of his attachments with the following write-up of his discussions with his native Kazakh client, a descendant of the ruler mentioned below and who was seeking a modern-day opinion.

The art object is a family heirloom item and was given in the early 20th Century as a gift from the 11th Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, Guangxu ( b. August 14th, 1871 – d. November 14th, 1908 ) to the owner’s direct ancestor His Holiness the 8th Jebtsundamba Khutughtu, The Bogd Khan ( b. 1869 - d. 1924) who governed as the last Buddhist Emperor of Mongolia first from 1911 to 1919 and again from 1921 until his death on the 20th of May, 1924.

The finial is unmounted and measures 255 mm H x 210 mm W x 40 mm D, and 10.7” high overall. The base foot is 43 mm W x 31 mm D

So it appears the finial really is a one of a kind piece of the sort that does belong in a museum collection if not in a Sotheby's-class auction with huge reserve,

Apologies for the confusion.

Best regards,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Robert Sun, Jan 22, 2023

If the museum horse was made using the lost wax process it would presumably be unique (since the wax is burned out prior to casting and the original mold broken to retrieve the figure). Later copies could have been made from the original figure using a piece mold but these will usually have tail tail traces of a mold seam absent from the original lost wax casting, or evidence that a seam was ground off and polished. However, if the original was made from a piece mold there could be multiple copies, ancient and modern, difficult to distinguish. As an aside, I have an Egyptian Horus falcon that is a piece-molded copy of a lost wax cast original in the Met Museum collection, possibly made in the late 1920s (the original having been excavated in the mid 1920s).

Theoretically, it may also be possible to replicate the original figure by 3-D printing using certain types of plastic materials, which could then be used like a wax model to make an exact copy. But maybe that’s too farfetched.

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Robert Sun, Jan 22, 2023

Also, if the body of the horse figure is hollow-cast there should be remnants of a ceramic core potentially amenable to TL testing.

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Bill H Sun, Jan 22, 2023

Robert, I much appreciate these additional observations and comments. I noticed what looks like tool marks on the lower part of the finial beneath the legs and wondered what it might signify regarding the finishing process and period of production. Anyone know?

Much obliged,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Steve Gridley Fri, Jan 27, 2023

I would start with finding a copy of the Kao Gong ji (考工记) by Lin Xiyi 林希逸 c1235. There are recent english translations available.

Another reference to start with:
Chinese Bronzes: Casting, Finishing, Patination, and Corrosion; https://www.getty.edu › pdf › ancientmetals2

Hope this helps

Subject:Re: CELESTIAL HORSE GRECO-BACTRIAN KINGDOM 4TH CENTURY
Posted By: Bill H Fri, Jan 27, 2023

Appreciate the suggestions.

Much obliged.

Bill H.


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