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20. Large Scroll Painting of Tang Emperor Taizong’s Warhorse, Quanmaoguo Circa 1917

( ID: cc1269 )

Overall dimensions: 53” X 79”

Price on request

A painting of the Emperor Taizong’s (598 – 649 A.D.) warhorse, Quanmaoguo, circa 1917 by the famous Chinese artist Lu Yuexi. Painted and rubbed in ink and brush on paper laid onto silk, the painting has the seal of Li Yuexi at the bottom right corner. Emulating with wide brush strokes and utilizing a joint method of rubbing to skillfully differentiate the painting from the actual mausoleum sculpture, the subject of the painting, now at the University of Pennsylvania, the subject is represented in full monumental size with arrows received in battle on the haunches and neck of the horse. Quanmaoguo means “saffron-yellow horse with a wavy coat of hair,” and was sometimes referred is “Curly.”

He was ridden by Tang Taizong before he became emperor in the battle against a contender in Hebei Province in 622 CE. The horse is shown walking at a brisk pace despite having received nine arrow wounds, three in its back haunches and six in the front. In 622, the rebel leader Liu Heita who fought against the future elements of the Tang dynasty during the transition from the Sui dynasty, fought in battle against the then General Li Shimin, later Emperor Taizong. Liu Heita had received support for his rebellion against the increasingly consolidated Tang regime from the Eastern Turks, but it was not enough and he was defeated in battle and later executed. In 636 CE, Emperor Taizong selected Mount Jiuzong, 56 miles northwest of the capital Chang’an (now Xi’an), to bury his Empress and to serve as his own necropolis. He ordered images of his six favorite horses, chosen from military victories that secured him the throne, to be carved in stone. He named and composed a laudatory poem for each one. Upon his death, the six stone horse reliefs and other stone monuments were placed along the east and west sides of the “spirit path” at the North Gate, the back exit of the tomb complex named Zhaoling or Zhao Mausoleum (University of Pennsylvania).

The mausoleum and the six horse carvings were praised by the famous Chinese revolutionary Lu Xun, (1881–1936):

“Han tombs are mostly marked with [stone] rams, tigers, tianlus and bixie; but Zhaoling at Chang’an has placed there war chargers carrying enemy arrows... Their production is simply unprecedented.” (Zhou 2009)

These stone stele are considered to be some of the finest Chinese works of art. In the early 20th century, when China was in turmoil and two of the six sculptures left China, the Chinese artist Li Yuexi was inspired to use a method of rubbing and painting to create original, painted impressions of these six mausolea carvings. This painting of one of the two horse stele, now in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, and are especially significant due to their estrangement from the remaining four, currently housed at the Beilin Museum in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province.

Conservation notes:

Professionally conserved by Sarah Bisi- Fogg Museum, Harvard

Provenance:

Hong Kong until 1952.

Acquired by American diplomat, c. 1952 and in private collection since.

References:

Zhou, X. (2009). “Zhaoling: The Mausoleum of Emperor Taizong”. Sino-Platonic Papers. No. 187

 
 
 
Photo #1 of 20.  Large Scroll Painting of Tang Emperor Taizong’s Warhorse, Quanmaoguo Circa 1917