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          

 

Provenance:

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.


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