A SUPERBLY CARVED LARGE IVORY DAOIST FIGURE MING DYNASTY, LATE 15TH CENTURY
- ivory (Elephas maximus)
Spink and Son Ltd, London, 31st October 1953.
The linearity of this carving suggests woodblock prints provided the source for the style of depiction. Deprived of the technique of washes in the early Ming period, woodblock prints made maximum use of the clean lines accented with small areas of detailed designs. The level of intricate decoration on the back, from the neatly combed hair to the ornately-decorated textile panel on his robe and hat create an effective contrast with the drapery and suggests it was created to be viewed from all angles. Furthermore, by leaving his robes undecorated, except for the edging along the neck and sleeves, the focus is drawn to his face.
During the Yuan dynasty, ivory was often used in palace decoration, thus leaving little for other private use outside the court. Lack of materials led to the decline of the art until the Ming dynasty, thus the few that were produced were of the highest quality. Only a small number of early Chinese ivory figures is known, including three figures of Buddha sold at Christie’s New York, 28th/29th October 1977, lot 130; and a standing figure sold in our London rooms, 8th November 1994, lot 362. All four figures appear to be later copies of Song originals, possibly from the late Song or Yuan periods. See also a large figure of Buddha, attributed to the late Yuan to Ming dynasty, sold at Christie’s New York, 19th March 2009, lot 601.