Camel and rider

UnknownFirst half 8th century AD

Museo d'Arte Orientale

Museo d'Arte Orientale
Torino, Italy

This statue is characterised by the contrast in size between the large camel, depicted with realistic features, and the small and improbably slender camel driver seated between its humps. The animal, which has a large escape hole under its belly, is standing on all four legs with its hooves resting on the corners of a thin unglazed base in the shape of a parallelogram. The camel’s weight is shifted slightly backwards onto its hind legs, its neck is curved and its head turned upwards and slightly to the left. It almost seems as if the camel has been abruptly reined to a halt by the camel. The beast’s body is muscular but slender, with pronounced fetlocks above its split hooves; its mouth is wide open in a roar, exposing its protruding canine teeth and tongue, with an upturned tip. The long tail is folded around the right flank in relief. The camel’s woolly coat covers its head and half of its neck, its cheeks, the entire area below its throat, its tall humps, thighs and forearms. The rough texture of the coat is depicted in relief with deep and dense incisions. The animal’s coat is covered with amber glaze in shades ranging from yellow to brown, except for the eyes and the teeth, which are cream-colored. The humps protrude from an oval saddle cloth placed on the creature’s back, with a pleated lower border: the fabric is glazed with green and cream stains on an amber base, while the border is green. The camel driver has his arms bent and his hands closed in fists, with holes drilled for the reins. His head is not glazed and was originally painted with cold colours but is now mostly grey. He is wearing a tall conical pointed hat, with an embossed arch on the front, that was originally painted brown. The physical features, among which the mouth, still red, stands out, are typical of caricatures of foreigners, with a prominent nose, round eyes, etc. The camel driver’s clothes are glazed from the neck downwards. He has an amber jacket with the right flap crossing over the left, a v-shaped neck and wide triangular green lapels ending in two small spheres; a kilt, tending to orange, with side vents; cream coloured knees, perhaps covered with tights, and high green pointed boots with green tips and short engraved lines. His body is slender, with legs pushed back and feet that seem disproportionately long.
This statue is very similar to a piece preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Materials of this type are normally dated to the 8th century, from sites in Shaanxi, such as Xi’an, and the Luoyang area. Sometimes the camel is removable or is replaced by a group of people, often male or female musicians.


  • Title: Camel and rider
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: First half 8th century AD
  • Subjetcs: Funerary sculpture
  • Physical Dimensions: w52.6 x h75.3 cm
  • Origins: China: Henan or Shaanxi
  • Dynasties: Tang
  • Provenance: Comune di Torino
  • Type: Sculptures
  • Rights: All Rights Reserved - MAO Museo d'Arte Orientale, Turin
  • Medium: Grey earthenware, sancai underglaze, pigments. Mold made

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