A straw-glazed figure of an elephant
Tang dynasty (618-906)
The elephant is standing four-square on an oval pedestal with a border of lobed lotus lappets. The body is caparisoned with a circular saddle-cloth bordered with beads and hanged with tassels and a large palmette. The back is surmounted by plaques of two human and two animal forms supporting a bowl with a flared rim. The figure is covered with a finely crackled straw-coloured lead glaze over a fine white slip, except for the base of the pedestal and the interior of the bowl showing the white porcelaineous stoneware body.
19.5 cm high
An old German private collection
A Dutch private collection
Ulrich Wiesner, Chinesische Keramik, Meisterwerke aus Privatsammlungen, Museum fūr Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne, 1988, pl. 42
Censers, offering vessels, and candelabra were produced in China for a relatively short period during the late Sui and early Tang dynasty in the late 6th through 7th century. This high-fired white ware was intended for placement on the altar of Buddhist temples for use in religious ceremony.
An almost identical piece, possibly even from the same mould, is in the collection of the British Museum. See Vainker, Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, 1991, pl. 49.
Another similar figure of an elephant, but carrying on its back a foreigner supporting a candle-holder is in the collection of the Rietberg Museum, Zūrich, see Brinker & Fischer, Treasures from the Rietberg Museum, The Asia Society, 1980, cat.no. 46.