A pair of famille verte biscuit Buddhist lions
Qing dynasty, Kangxi period, 1662-1722AD, China
50.5 x 23 x 16 cm; 19.69 x 9.06 x 6.30 inches
50.5 x 23 x 16 釐米
Each lion sits foursquare on its haunches upon an individual and separate rectangular base. One lion head is turned to the right and the other to the left. Both have a ferocious yet charming expression with bulging eyeballs, a snub nose with pierced nostrils, jaws wide open revealing fangs and cold iron-red painted tongues. They are painted on the biscuit in famille verte enamels; both lions are painted predominantly in a light green enamel, with an aubergine and dark green mane, blue spiral curls and tufts of hair above the paws, and yellow enamel to the face, chest, spine and fan-like tail. The cubs, playing with a perforated brocade ball, both look up and have a sweet expression; one cub is lying on its back and the other is sitting on its hunches. Each base is decorated with butterflies and flowing plants within a foliated border against a diaper ground flanked by aubergine glazed bamboo columns.
The image of Buddhist lions was introduced to China during the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) through India, where it had long been a symbol of royalty and the power of Buddha’s teachings, or the Dharma. With the fall of the Han dynasty and the upsurge in imperial patronage of Buddhism, the lion began to be depicted in new contexts. As a result, models of lions were placed at the entrance of sacred buildings and important halls. Those that found their way to Europe, via the export trade, served as grand and exotic decoration amongst the wealthy households.
‘Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art 1935-6’, printed by William Clowes and Sons 1935, figure 1656, p.139 and 157
‘Ausstellung Chinesischer Kunst’, Wurfel Verlag Berlin 1929, figure 975, p.357
‘Catalogue of the Leonard Gow Collection of Chinese Porcelain’ by R. L. Hobson, plate L X III, figure 297- illustrates the same model
‘La Maladie de Porcelaine East Asian Porcelain from the Collection of Augustus the Strong’, edition Leipzig 2001 – no.23, p. 60-61