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A Chinese walnut, Hu-T'ao, polychrome and gilt sculpture of a European Company official

Probably Canton, 1st half 18th century

H. 53 cm

A realistically carved model of a full-length figure of a European gentleman. He is standing in a formal stance with his right leg slightly bent, his right hand resting on his walking stick, and his left hand raised somewhat towards his sword stuck at his left hip. On his head, a black tricorn hat with a gilt fringe over a long curly wig reaching down to his shoulders. He is wearing, overall gilt, a knee-length coat with carved floral decorations over a button-up waistcoat with front pockets, knickerbockers and breeches, and low black shoes with gilt buckles, standing on a small platform.

Several of these figures are known, all made in unfired painted clay, and many signed by, or attributed to, Chinqua from Amoy, working in Canton during the first half of the 18th century. The figures of European gentlemen signed by Chinqua all stand in a similar pose to the present figure. However, since the present figure is executed in carved wood instead of unfired clay, it probably is not by, but at best after a model by Chinqua.

These figures were commissioned by visiting foreign merchants and naval officers with connections to the European companies trading in Canton during the 18th century. The face of the present figure bears some resemblance to an unfired painted clay sculpture in the collection of the Rijksmuseum (inv. nr. BK-1976-49), dated circa 1770, attributed to the Chinese sculptor Chitqua (act. 2nd half 18th century), and supposedly depicting the Dutch-American merchant Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest (1739-1801). However, the stance and the long wig make the present figure more like Chinqua's figures from the early 18th century. It is unlikely this gentleman could be Van Braam Houckgeest, so its identity remains obscure.

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