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752. Chinese Lady

China, Kangxi period, c.1670-80
Height: 29,7 cm
Provenance: Private Collection, France

A large figure of an elegant Chinese lady, carved from a greenish grey soapstone, the facial features, hair and clothing embellished with polychrome and gilding. Her floor-length loose-fitting robes, are incised all over with a cloud design, interspersed with flower medallions. The over robe, is closed at the front with a lingzhi shaped clasp and the edges of the garments have a border design of scrolling lotuses. Her black hair is swept up into an elaborate bun to one side of her head. In her right hand she holds a short stick., the left hand is covered by a long flowing sleeve. The back of the robes are incised in less detail than the front.

Exotic soapstone figures such as this one, were already being brought to Europe as early as the 16th century. At this time, Western merchants were already trading along the southern coastal regions of China. By the 18th century the main centre for soapstone carving was Fujian Province. These types of objects were not specifically made for export, but carved for the domestic trade and export alike. The religious or symbolic significance of some of the figures was probably lost on the Europeans, who mainly admired them for their exotic charm.
Comparable figures are in the Danish as well as the Swedish Royal Collections.

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