Seated AntiqueTaoist Priest
Item No. 16060
19th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Lacquer over Wood and Polychrome
11" x 4.25" x 3.75"
( 27.94 x 10.795 x 9.525 cm)
(H x W x D)
This well detailed image, which probably represents a Taoist priest, sits on a high backed horseshoe chair with an arched back, a rounded arm rest (part of which is chipped) and horizontal splats on the sides and backs of the chair's legs. He rests his feet on an elaborate footed and waisted pedestal decorated on the apron with an image of a tao tieh and topped by a pair of fu lions with curved backs upon which rests the priests pointed shoes. The image of the tao tieh is mirrored in his double winged high hat from which extend two thin unbending scarves which rest on and stretch past his shoulders. The tao tieh is a mythical figure of just a face with an open gaping mouth and was a motif often found on ancient Chinese bronze vessels during the Shang dynasty. Although there is no consensus, the tao tieh is said to have had such an appetite that it even eats its own head. It is also said to represent greed and sometimes is viewed as a guardian figure.
The priest wears a three-quarter length over garment fastened at the waist with a large circular clasp and open to reveal an undergarment with a collar crossed at the neck and an elaborate tasseled sash that extends from his belt below his stomach. Both fists are clenched and the left probably held an object now missing. The cavity in the back into which was placed sutras. messages to ancestors and probably string and sticks representing the statues innards remains closed and sealed with a bung. His long head displays a face with a prominent squared jaw, low cheekbones, pursed lips, a high forehead and ears, deep eye sockets and a prominent nose.
Much of the original gilt and red pigment with lacquer applied over the image remain. Most of the surface in the areas that were not gilt have darkened to a black-brown due to both the natural darkening of lacquer over time and from the effects of the smoke from candles and incense burned to revere the image on a home altar.
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