An inscribed bronze hunch-backed figure
Ming dynasty or earlier
The figure is wearing long robes and a belt around his waist, his head resting below his shoulders and his hair tied in a knot. The hands are folded underneath the robes below his head and the face is rendered with a serious expression. A six-character inscription gu zhi xiang qin ren xin is incised on the figure’s back.
13 cm high, wood stand
Formerly in the collection of Carl D. Barkman
Carl D. Barkman (1919-2006) was a Dutch sinologist and author. He joined the Netherlands foreign service in China in 1945, and later became Dutch ambassador in Korea and Japan.
This rare and unusual figure of a hunchbacked scholar would have been suitable for placing atop a scholar’s desk. The inscription may be translated as “The Fragrance of Antiquity Penetrates a Man’s Heart”, which reflects the scholar’s respect for the past. This is further emphasized by the archaic-style script.
Hunchbacked figures are known from ancient history in China. The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzhi (369-286 BC) describes a hunchback who despite his deformity was, unlike many other people, capable of maintaining virtue in his heart.