Description: East Asia, China, Han Dynasty, ca. 206 BCE to 220 CE. A mold-made ceramic ram in a recumbent pose with legs folded beneath its body, presenting a sweet countenance with long curled horns, eyes, and muzzle nicely delineated. Traces of red-orange pigment remain over the white body. Size: 4.625" L x 3" H (11.7 cm x 7.6 cm)
Tomb figures like this one are part of a class of artifacts called mingqi - sometimes known as "spirit utensils" or "vessels for ghosts". They became popular in the Han Dynasty and would persist for several centuries. Alongside figures like this one were musicians, athletes, other animals, structures
Even though they were mass produced, mingqi of the Han Dynasty often show a high level of detail and naturalism. These were designed to assist the po, the part of the soul of the deceased that remained underground with the body while the hun, the other part of the soul, ascended. Caring for the po seems to have taken on a new level of meaning in the Han period, with more elaborate rituals and tomb construction arising.
Provenance: private Orange County, California USA collection acquired before 2000
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Condition Report: Expected surface wear with pigment losses and areas of encrustation commensurate with age.
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