East Asia, China, Tang Dynasty, ca. 618 to 906 CE. A rare depiction of a water buffalo or ox cast from iron and standing atop a quartet of stocky legs. The water buffalo has a bulbous body, protruding shoulder blades above a smooth dewlap, a sinuous tail curling around the posterior, and a powerful neck that holds its head aloft. The bovine face bears petite hemispherical eyes, a tapered mouth with a thick snout, and a pair of crescent-shaped horns projecting from the top. Encrusted layers of patina suggest this zoomorphic figure was created as a burial offering. Size: 6.75" L x 3.25" W x 5.1" H (17.1 cm x 8.3 cm x 13 cm); 6.2" H (15.7 cm) on included custom stand.
The water buffalo or ox is one of the twelve animals featured in the Chinese zodiac. In Chinese art, this animal is commonly associated with the life of the peasant. Oxen are symbolic of springtime and agricultural life, or more generally, the pastoral ideal of a simple life removed from the distractions of city or official life. These animals were crucial for a farmer's livelihood and were highly valued. In China, it is not unusual to see bronze oxen or water buffalo lining the shores of lakes and rivers. This practice dates to the Tang Dynasty and is based on the legendary emperor who founded the Xia Dynasty, the first dynasty referred to in historical records, and as legend goes, controlled China's floodwaters by placing iron oxen alongside the waters of his projects.
Provenance: ex-private Micklautz collection, Hawaii, USA, collected from 1940 to 1998
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Both back legs reattached to body, but break lines are nearly invisible and unobtrusive to the overall presentation. Nicks and encrustations to legs, body, and head, with light softening to some finer details on face. Light earthen deposits and nice patina throughout.