The Chinese zodiac is a chronological system based on the lunar calendar that assigns an animal to each year in a repeating twelve-year cycle. By the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD9-220), the conventional order of traditional Chinese zodiac animals was established. The twelve animals art: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Each animal has been given a particular character reflecting its nature. Zodiac figurines were amongst the most favoured genres of traditional Chinese funeral art. Most of the earlier traditional Chinese zodiac figurines are depicted as a hybrid creature, combining an animal’s head and a human body that wears a richly draped court robe, which makes this example a typical Ming example, as it is represented by a Ming male court attendant holding an animal that greatly resembles a dog. This figure would have been displayed amongst a processional group within a tomb, most likely before a sedan chair or palanquin and before the musician figures. It would have served a ceremonial purpose – to announce the arrival of the tomb occupant.
Chinese Ming Unglazed Polychrome Zodiac Figurine
A finely hollow-moulded Ming unglazed polychrome terracotta zodiac figurine. The male court attendant is portrayed wearing a long, richly draped Ming court robe, standing in a solemn pose. He is presented placing both his hands right in front of his chest, holding a quadruped that closely resembles a dog. Under his high court hat, his facial features are emphasised in black and red pigments.
Period: The Ming Dynasty
Provenance: From the collection of a West Country gentleman, formed in 1970s.
Condition: Overall good condition, abrasions to the surface, especially to the small dog and hands.