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A Peek into Our Collections: Horse with Roman-Style Bridle Ornaments

Taken together, the objects on display in our inaugural installation tell the story of the world’s great art—from ancient to modern times and across all media. Index asked curators to share vignettes about a select group of objects that showcase the breadth and depth of our collections, offering you a window on what will be on view when our new facility opens to the public on November 16.

Horse with Roman-Style Bridle Ornaments, probably 2nd century, Chinese, Eastern Han period, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum.

Standing proudly at 4 feet high and in near-perfect condition, this brilliantly glazed earthenware horse was probably made around the 2nd century CE, specifically for burial in a tomb. Horses in ancient China were valued for their strength and endurance and came to symbolize wealth and power. In a funerary context they were believed to transport the soul to the next world. The five Roman-style medallions decorating this horse’s bridle make a direct link between the Han empire in China and nations to the west, providing clear evidence of the expanding trade and stylistic exchange along the Silk Road.

See other highlighted objects here.