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An exceedingly rare pair of late 18th century ‘nodding head’ polychrome decorated figures of a mandarin and his female consort, retaining most of their original paint. The male figure is seated on rockwork and wears a bright yellow robe decorated with floral sprays; he retains his original beard and wears an official’s hat. The female figure is also seated on rockwork and is dressed in a dark blue robe; she has a tied hairstyle and wears pendent cut glass earrings.

Note: Chinese or oriental artefacts were immensely popular in the 18th century. Export goods from the Far East included china, lacquerware and figures like these, which were highly prized and perceived as very exotic. A painting by John Zoffany depicting Queen Charlotte at her dressing table at Hampton Court in the mid 1760s shows a Chinese ‘nodding head’ figure behind her, and at the Swedish royal court Chinese ‘nodding head’ figures are mentioned in 18th century inventories of Drottningholm Palace. Most of these figures, like the ones in the Zoffany painting, are in a standing position; seated figures such as the present pair are extremely rare. Some of the paint surface has been refreshed.

Literature: Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards, ‘The Dictionary of English Furniture’, revised edition, 1954, vol. II, p. 364, fig. 21.
Margaret Jourdain, ‘Chinese Export Art in the Eighteenth Century’, 1967, pp. 110-11.
Michael Cohen and William Motley, ‘Mandarin and Menagerie’, 2008, pp. 124-5, item 7.1.

Exhibitions:

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  • Provenance

    Jeremy Ltd., London;
    Private collection, Florida, USA.


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