Painting on silk of an offering scene to the Horse Spirit or King of Horses Ma Shen. Ming period, probably 16th C. Dim.: WxH 101,5x149cm (excluding rim).
The veneration of the Horse Spirit was limited to the Northern part of China where most horses were bred and to the Ming period.
The military importance of horses is stressed here by the presence of two deified generals. Further there's Shou Lao on the left and a Daoist deity on the right, possibly the Jade Emperor who -according to myth- played a role in the creation of the Horse Spirit.
At the lower end two young horses are carried on plates to the altar to be offered. The presence of the wolf and the tiger at both ends of the altar is not clear. At the lower left there are two buffalos with a young with standing behind them the Buffalo God Shi You (the one with the horns on his forehead) and an unknown spirit. The lower end with the livestock and the human figures represents the earthly world.
This offering would take place on the 22nd day of the 2nd lunar month. Note that the horses are adorned with a flower for this special occasion.
Condition: old mounting (ca.1920), folds, creases, a few damaged spots. As a whole fair to good considering the age.