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Bactrian Camel

Artist Culture
8th century
Earthenware with three-color (sancai) and transparent lead-fluxed glazes over white slip
Shaanxi province, China, Asia
Ceramics, sculpture
Current Location
On View, Gallery 230
34 in. x 26 1/2 in. x 9 in. (86.4 x 67.3 x 22.9 cm)
Credit Line
William K. Bixby Trust for Asian Art
Public Domain
Object Number
This ceramic two-humped Bactrian camel was likely part of a set of objects placed in the tomb of an important person to signify wealth and position in society. The hollow sculpture was made by pressing thin sheets of earthenware clay into reusable, fired ceramic molds. Before the clay had completely dried, the sections were removed from the molds and details were incised and stamped onto them. Once the clay pieces were dry enough to support their own weight, they were joined together and attached to a flat base. The seams were trimmed, smoothed, and covered over with clay in preparation for glazing. Glazes are a mixture of tiny crystals and ground minerals, which are added to create different colors. Tang dynasty tomb objects often have multicolored lead-fluxed glazes known as “three-color” (sancai) glaze, as in the vivid amber, straw, and green colors covering this camel. To apply the glaze, the object was first covered with a white slip (clay thinned with water). The glazes were then brushed, poured, or splashed over the piece and allowed to drip down before firing. When fired, the glazes melted into a hard, glasslike finish. Tang artists used lead glazes to create rich, smooth surfaces and added coloring oxides to create pure, bright colors.
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