A pair of famille verte biscuit porcelain Buddhist lions
Kangxi period, 1662–1722, China
清康熙 1662-1722 中國
Height: 44.5 cm, 17.5 inches
Each lion sits foursquare on its haunches upon an individual rectangular base. The male looks down to the right – with open mouth and a laughing playful expression; his raised paw holds a perforated brocade ball to which an overglaze blue enamel ribbon is attached and bound around the leg, before it descends to the ground. The female looks down to the left, in the same playful manner, her raised paw supporting a cub that is standing on its hind legs. The cub’s head rests on its mother’s chest – looking up, and receiving a stream of liquid from the mother’s open mouth. The cub is glazed a pale yellow – in contrast to its parents; the male and female are both painted with a light green wash, aubergine manes, yellow markings, blue enamel curls to the face and spine, and other details in iron-red and gold. All three lions bear the character wang (king) to the forehead – denoting the lion as ‘King of the Animals’ and companion, protector and mount of holy beings.
In the wake of Buddhism, the lion became a symbol for ferocity and strength. Large stone and glazed terracotta lions were placed at the entrance to buildings – as defenders of the law and protectors of sacred monuments. The porcelain models that found their way to Europe via the export trade served as grand and exotic decoration in the homes of the very wealthy. Their symbolic meaning was lost, but the models were highly prized for the porcelain in which they were made, and their brilliant, colourful glazes; the whimsical, playful sculptures were also appreciated for their character and charm.
Mrs Charles Wrightsman
Catalogue of the Leonard Gow Collection of Chinese Porcelain, by R. L. Hobson. plate LXIII, 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, pages 60 and 61.