Alice Karle Appraisal
Fine & Decorative Art
Chinese Bronze Statue
Statue of a Boy
17th Century – 18.75 inches high
Auction Sale for $52,560
Chinese bronze gilded statue of a boy, made in the seventeenth century in the Kangxi Dynasty. It was intended as a support and was originally part of a set of three or four. A flat area on the back of the head of the bronze sculpture indicates the original function. This gilded bronze statue was part of a collection of objects the client had inherited. The sculpture sold for $52,560 ($43,800 plus premium).
This sculpture is unusual in that the subject is secular. Sculpture of the preceding Ming Dynasty (1368‑1644) had centered around the practice of Buddhism, or other aspects of native Chinese religions. Conveying a sense of motion, the sculpture is muscular, solid, and strong.
The Kangxi Emperor (1661-1722) was the fourth emperor of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, and the second to rule China following the overthrow of the native Chinese Ming Dynasty. Ruling for sixty-one years, the Kangxi Emperor brought stability to China, and a flourishing of the arts. The Qing also developed new styles in pottery, glass, and sculpture.
In the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, Jesuit influence extended at the imperial court. There is debate concerning whether the Emperor became a Christian, or whether he sought to accommodate the Jesuits for political purposes.
The bronze age in China began around 2000 BCE. Best known are the Chinese bronze of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties commencing approximately 1650 BCE. These bronzes were ritual vessels for the preparation of food and wine, and were made in various specialized forms.
The Hu, Jué, Ding, Zun, and Gu are some of the shapes that were used. While presumed to be of religious significance, how they were used in religious ceremony is uncertain. Often they were covered in complex patterns, the significance of which is no longer apparent. Taotie masks of mythical animals were employed on handles. The Taotie masks featured frontal animal-like features, and prominent eyes, often protruding in high relief. Taotie masks also could be made with jaws and fangs, horns, ears, and eyebrows.