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16479

Carved Seated Ancestor in a Mandarin Robe
Item No. 16479

19th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Lacquer over Wood and Polychrome
7.75" x 3.5" x 3.75"
( 19.685 x 8.89 x 9.525 cm)
(H x W x D)

This seated Mandarin sits on a high back chair with arched backrest, tall curving legs and armrests with vertical slats set on a high red pedestal with painted calligraphy. Both arms are bent and held inside the armrests, the left with the extended hand on the knee, and the right with hand clenched to hold a vertical object now missing.

He is dressed in typical garb of a Mandarin official. He wears a red Mandarin hat (which in real life was made of woven bamboo) which is conical in shape with a broad black band topped by a round finial. He wears a short black jacket with four loops and buttons to simulate the brass ones used over his plain long gown (nei tao) which falls to just above the boots. A sash with painted floral decorations and lined in red hangs from underneath the jacket. He wears black satin boots, with thick white soles, a sign of his status. These boots were similar to those worn at the court, and said to cost as much as a servant would earn in one year. According to Garrett, “they were such a symbol of superiority that a proverb at the time stated ‘A man in boots will not speak to a man in shoes.” (Chinese Clothing p. 74).
His brownish hued face is portrayed in a serene benevolence. His eyebrows, eyes and facial hair (moustache and short goatee) are indicted with soft brush strokes.

This carving was used on a home shrine. The figure originally would have been brought to a temple, where it would have been given an “eye opening ceremony" performed by a Buddhist or Taoist monk. The back of the carving contains a cavity into which the sutras (or scriptures) and messages to ancestors were placed during this ceremony. The bung which enclosed the niche is missing revealing the paper documents inside.

Sources:
Valery M. Garrett, “A Collector’s Guide to Chinese Dress Accessories,” Singapore, Times Editions

Valery Garret, Chinese Clothing, An Illustrated Guide.” Hong Kong, Oxford University Press, 1994.
16423 Seared Mandarin Ancestor


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