This lavish ornamental object, comprises of various elements of Chinese porcelain mounted in gilt-bronze. A turquoise glazed reclining figure and a carp, are arranged sitting amongst bulrushes on a rocky underground. The taller wavy leaves of the rushes, as well as a few catkins, are arranged behind the figures. Some shorter bended leaves are placed around the sides and front of the group. The carp amusingly spouts gilt bronze ‘water’ from its mouth. The gilt-metal base has a broad concave band and stands on ornamental pierced feet.
The reclining figure, represents the well-known Tang Dynasty romantic poet Li Bai (701-766 AD), also referred to as Li Taibo the Poet Immortal. He is one of the greatest imperial poets of his day, but became particularly famous for his great drunkenness. He is therefore often portrayed leaning drunkenly against a wine jar.
Originally this figure of Li Bai was made as a waterpot and the carp as a water dropper – both items intended for the Chinese scholar’s desk. On entering Europe, these objects lost their original usage and meaning, but were certainly appreciated for their exotic allure. During the 18th century, French dealer-decorators known as the marchands-mercier, would combine and embellish beautiful foreign objects such as these, turning them into new highly fashionable works of art.
The Walters Museum in Baltimore has a mounted group with two turquoise carp, but with a central cup surrounded with bulrushes (acc.nr 49.2266).