11398 A VERY RARE PAIR OF QING DYNASTY NODDING HEAD FIGURES OF A YOUNG MAN AND WOMAN DRESSED IN THEIR ORIGINAL APPAREL Chinese. Late Eighteenth or Early Nineteenth Century. Measurements: Man – Height: 16 1/2″ (42 cm) Width: 5 1/2″ (14 cm) Depth: 4 1/4″ (11 cm) Base, square: 4 1/4″ (11 cm). Woman – […]
Of polychrome painted clay, silk, and probably human hair.
Each with a hand painted Chinese character to the underside of the base.
This pair of Chinese figures represents a type of decorative object exported from Canton to Europe and America toward the end of the eighteenth century. The “nodders” are so-called because the heads are separate from the body, attached to a pendulum-like weight suspended within the frame of the figure; when the head is touched it moves back and forth in a nodding motion, in imitation of a respectful bowing gesture. The figures ranged in scale from around 12 inches to life size. Most examples that survive are composed of painted clay, porcelain, and papier mâché; it is extremely rare to find figures like the present examples retaining their original silk apparel and, in this particular case, hair. Furthermore, they are modeled with anatomical accuracy and adjustable arms. Normally depicting deities and officials of high rank or ancestors, it is also unusual that these examples portray people of normal life. Interestingly, a pair of larger size depicting a Mandarin man and his consort in silk attire, formerly in the UK art trade, rest upon closely similar blue marbled bases. The female is almost identical to the present figure in hair and facial features. The collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Massachusetts, includes a painted clay figure of a Chinese laborer with movable hands circa 1803 that stands on a related blue marbled base.
Full research report available.