REF No. 6486
pair of chinese clay nodding head figures

Late 18th Century Chinese
European market
Height: 21½ inches; 52cm

A fine pair of nodding-head figures, the man with a blue coat painted with a rectangular scholar’s badge at the front, the woman with a red robe decorated with moulded cloud motifs and waves at the hem.

These are good examples of the type, made in unfired painted clay. The heads are on balances with weights extending into the hollow bodies so that when nudged they nod elegantly. The faces are well modelled and have individuality and character. The crane badge on the man’s coat denotes the first rank of scholar.
Brighton Pavilion contains a number of such figures, about which there has been much discussion as to their origins, Chinese or European. Examples were made in northern Italy and also in London in plaster as well as unfired clay. Many of the European examples are obvious on stylistic grounds. However one figure at Brighton, attributed to possible European manufacture, was vandalised about ten years ago and the insides were found to contain Chinese wastepaper and plant material proving its Chinese origin. Some of the figures have also been repainted over the years and further detailed study is needed before a proper understanding of this type of figure is possible, though this particular pair is clearly of Chinese origin.

References: Gyllensvärd 1972, different examples of this type at the royal palace at Drottningholm, Sweden, where over a hundred 'china dolls' were recorded in an inventory of 1777; Crossman 1991, p316, plate 112, four figures; Wirgin 1998, p198-207, fig 227; Cohen & Motley 2008, p126, No 7.2, a pair of figures.


pair of chinese clay nodding head figures