10. M4954


Large Chinese pottery sancai, three-colour glazed Bactrian camel, the body predominantly of rich amber glaze, standing with its head raised back with wide open mouth, flared nostrils and bulging eyes, a swept-back mane and flowing hair behind its head, the neck with long strands of hair combed to both sides and heightened in a straw glaze, wearing a three-colour splashed saddle cloth pleated at the edge beneath its straw-glazed tufted humps swaying in each direction, the top of the legs and the tail also heightened in straw glaze, the base unglazed with original drips of glaze.

32 5/8 inches, 83 cm high.

Tang dynasty, early 8th century.


Provenance & Additional Information

  • From the collection of Pauline Palmer Wood (1917-1984).
  • Gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1969, accession no. 1969.787a.
  • Sold by Sotheby’s New York in their auction of Important Chinese Art, 11th September 2019, lot 739, p.191.
  • Published by Marchant in their exhibition of Chinese Ceramics Tang to Song, 2022, no. 10, pp. 30-33.
  • A similar camel with saddle bags, from a private collection in Osaka, is illustrated by Masahiko Sato in Chinese Pottery Figures, no. 146, description p. 126; another with saddle bags and small tufts at the top of the legs is illustrated by Regina Krahl in Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, Volume Three (I), no. 1199, p. 191.
  • A related camel with a similar saddle cloth is illustrated by Anthony du Boulay in Christie’s Pictorial History of Chinese Ceramics, 4, p. 47 and was originally from the collection of Captain and Mrs. V. Bulkeley-Johnson and the Mount Trust Collection, was sold by Sotheby’s London in their auction of 100 Selected Chinese & Korean Ceramics from the Toguri Collection, 9th June 2004, lot 75, pp. 110/1; a slightly larger camel with saddle bags of similar colouring unearthed from the tomb of An Pu and his wife in Luoyang, dated 709, is in the Luoyang Museum and illustrated by Sun Xinmin in Three-Colour Ware of the Tang Dynasty, The Henan Province Discoveries, no. 45, pp. 74/5.
  • A slightly smaller similar camel reputedly unearthed in Luoyang, Henan Province in 1926, purchased from T. Loo in 1927, donated by General Goodyear in 1955, and exhibited at the Buffalo Museum of Science was sold by Christie’s New York in their auction of The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, Tang Dynasty Retinue of Ten Massive Sancai Glazed Pottery Figures, 3rd December 1992, lot 235 and was sold again by Poly Auction Hong Kong in Tang Sancai Ceramics from the Ten-views Lingbi Rock Retreat Collection, 14th July 2022, lot 3218.
  • During this period, the Silk Road flourished, allowing trade between China, Europe and the Near East to thrive, indicative of the incredible breadth of trade The two-hump Bactrian camels were the preferred means of transport for traders, as they were capable of travelling further distances than the single-hump Arabian camels.


Breaks at the top of the legs, the feet and one ankle, glaze flakes retouched, the base with a crack through it, natural firing lines and flaws.