Qing Dynasty, Kangxi reign (1662-1722)
Reference #: P9295
Height: 12 ¾ inches (33 cm.)
Bondy 1923, page 151.
Hodroff Collection, illustrated in Howard 1994, number293, page 248.
The pair each molded in mirror image, each stocky figure of a boy standing firmly on a high, rectangular plinth with flat base, looking forward and holding a vase with both hands. Decorated in iron red, green, yellow, aubergine and black enamels. The boys with a small lock of hair on the top of the head, each dressed in an apron with a auspicious symbols beneath the collar, also with bracelets and anklets. The tall bases decorated with a molded petal band.
Decorated in a restricted palette of iron red, green, yellow, aubergine and black enamels, this group of boys bridges the shift in decoration from earlier Transitional pieces decorated in only two or three colors, to the more developed famille verte palette of the Kangxi period. The present model, with the inclusion of the young boy clinging to the leg of each figure, is somewhat more unusual than related models of a single boy holding a vase.1 Also related in decoration and date is a rare example of a reclining boy on an oblong plinth, modeled in the same style as the present figures.2 All of these models were probably initially produced towards the outset of the Kangxi period, and possibly into the eighteenth century.3 While probably initially intended for the Chinese market, these whimsical figures of boys certainly would have attracted the eye of the Western trader and subsequently made their way into the European trade as well.
In China, the imagery of boys has a long and well-recognized meaning. Typically, figures of boys such as the present pair were depicted wearing bracelets, anklets and sometimes collars that imitated Chinese locks. These decorations were intended as amulets of protection to secure the baby boy’s health. 4 Indeed, the birth of a son was considered the most fortunate event for a young couple. The rank of a lady was contingent upon the birth of a boy, and her later status was equally dependent on her son’s success.5 Most marriage blessings and rebus’ include the wish for many sons, as nothing was of greater importance to continuing the family lineage. Therefore, this particular model would not simply have been seen by the Chinese as a charming decoration, but as a symbol of the joy brought by the birth of many sons.