A porcelain monkey
Qianlong period late 18th century, Chinese Export.
Height: 17 cm
The figure of seated porcelain monkey is depicted in a highly naturalistic pensive pose. The enamelled grey glazed body is overlaid with thin dark brown strokes imitating fur markings. The eyes are yellow with a circle of rose enamelling surrounding the black pupil. The motif of pensive monkey is quite unique among ceramic monkey figures made for the export market. This rare example is made in the late eighteenth centuries.
Monkey figures appear with great regularity in export Dehua wares, perhaps reflecting the popularity of monkeys as pets on ships travelling to Europe from China. Like the parrot, the monkey was an exotic pet that found its way to Europe in the sixteenth century via the maritime trade routes, and both spices became popular subjects for artists and collectors. Augustus the Strong, for instance, owned fifteen examples of Dehua monkeys by 1721.
Mandarin and Menagerie vol.1, Reigate, 2008, pl. 14.4.