Ceramic models of elephants carrying receptacles on their back were already made in China prior to the Tang dynasty and were used as tomb figures to enhance the quality of after-life of their owner. Porcelain figures of elephants with vases on their backs and made for more decorative purposes first appeared in yingqing
ware during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), such as the one sold in our New York rooms, 4th December 1984, lot 265. Those attributed to the Kangxi period (1662-1722) are the first ones specially made for export to Europe, such as the model included in the exhibition Ausstellung Chinesischer Kunst
, Berlin, 1929, cat.no. 947 and sold in our London rooms, 25th March 1974, lot 12.
Luxurious cloisonne enamel models of elephants emerged in the early Qing dynasty. A pair of identical cloisonne enamel and gilt-bronze elephants with Qianlong reign marks was sold in our London rooms, 1st July 1969, lot 31. Compare also another pair of unmarked elephants sold in these rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2618.