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God of Rank, 19th century

China: Lu H'sing, 1800-1899
Porcelain
16-1/4 x 9-1/2 in. (41.3 x 24.1 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1965.1.135.S
© The Norton Simon Foundation

Not on View

The popularity of all things Chinese and “Oriental” among European collectors, which extended well into the nineteenth century, was met by an ever-increasing production of porcelain export ware for the Western market. Such goods ranged from luxury service ware to mass-produced vases. This figurine, remnants of hundreds of such porcelains from the Duveen Brothers Gallery, depict a Daoist deity intended for the Western market.

The seated figure wears a headdress common to the Three Divine Teachers of the Dao. The scepter in his left hand associates him with the teacher Lingbao Tianzun. Holes have been drilled above his lips, chin and under each earlobe to accommodate a false mustache and beard. Lingbao Tianzun is presented here seated on a pedestal as he would have originally been exhibited at the Duveen Brothers Gallery. The two porcelain objects are unrelated, but were probably shown together because of their famille verte style. The pedestal includes an indecipherable inscription. From the perspective of a non-Asian language reader, the inscription looks convincing and shows similarities to Japanese and the Japanese use of Chinese characters, or kanji. The anomalies in design, in iconography and in the text of these objects demonstrates the popularity of Chinese art in the West and their function as decorative art rather than religious icons.


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