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LOT 0247

GBP (£) 1,500 - 2,000
EUR (€) 1,730 - 2,310
USD ($) 2,090 - 2,780

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£1,350 (EUR 1,556; USD 1,879) (+bp*)

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Chinese Ming Zodiac Group

Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644 AD

A group of ten ceramic figures, each modelled in the round wearing a priest's or dignitary's headdress and long robes, presenting a zodiacal animal and standing on an integral base; extensive remains of painted pigmentation. 2.3 kg total, 17cm each (6 3/4"). Fine condition. [10]

Property of a London gentleman; formerly with the Mahboubian Gallery, London, UK; acquired before 1972.

See Prodan, M., The Art of the Tang Potter, London, 1960, pp.96-97, for a figure with comparable stance, headdress and style of robes.

The earliest known pictorial representation of the twelve-year cycle is in a Northern Wei tomb in Shandong Province; by the time of the Tang Dynasty the calendrical animals were frequently used on epitaphs and engraved on funerary steles. The Chinese term shengxiao means both birth and resemblance, as it came to be believed that a person's character was influenced by the animal symbolising their year of birth. The belief developed into believing that it was possible to gain insights into relationships and the universe and therefore into one's fate. Each of the animals also represent a specific hour, day, month of the cycle, and all these details are taken into consideration when investigating the almanac for divination purposes. There are a number of stories about the origin of the order in which the animals are placed. The most popular ones include those relating to how the Jade Emperor asked to see earth's twelve most interesting animals on the first day of the first lunar month, in which the rat gained the first position by deception, becoming the sworn enemy of the cat.