Saturday 3 September 2011
Source: Wall Street Journal.
Made in China during the latter part of the eighth century, this unusual Tang dynasty burial figure today sits on a shelf in the Museo di Arte Orientale (MAO) of Turin, Italy, exuding as much mystery as he does energy. To date, nobody can say exactly who or what he is – his clothes, his pose, his expression don’t add up. For the moment, MAO has him down as “a Persian riding a camel or a horse”.
«Keep in mind that at the height of the Tang period, the population of the imperial capital was about one million and, of these, at least a fourth were probably foreigners», the curator of East Asian art, Mr. Guglielminotti says. And many of them were Sogdians, a Persian people who dominated trade along the Silk Road.
But the camel-rider interpretation is not entirely satisfying. Just ask Marcello Pacini, who headed the Agnelli Foundation for 25 years and acquired the statue at auction some 20 years ago for its collection. «I have never seen a rider with such intensity in his eyes», he says. «His is the expression of a priest honoring a god, not that of a camel rider facing some banal complication.» He speculates that our riveting mystery man is a Zoroastrian priest feeding the sacred fire. He points to the fact that Zoroastrian Sogdians had a visible presence in Tang China and that Zoroastrian priests wore a face cover during rituals to avoid polluting the fire with breath or saliva.
Read the entire article here.
See online : Museo d’Arte Orientale