A very rare Chinese Export blue and white 'Mr. No-Body', late 17th century. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2012

His head and outstretched arms issuing from his ballooning breeches, holding a wine ewer in one hand and a goblet in the other and wearing (later) removable hat; 8 7/8 in. (22.5 cm.) high (2). Estimate $40,000 - $60,000

Provenance: Acquired from Mrs. Mildred R. Mottahedeh, New York.

Notes: Inspired by the woodcut frontispiece of the 1606 popular play by Thomas Heywood, No-body and Some-body, this lampoon figure symbolized the common man who takes the blame for everything. Becoming an iconic figure in the public's imagination, he was made in numerous English Delft examples in the ensuing decades, including one dated 1682 and now in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg (acc. no. 1978-131). A Delft figure may have been shown to the Chinese modeler, although Sargent suggests (see below) that a copy of the play could have made it to China on board a merchant ship, as sailors often used theatrics as a means of entertainment on their long voyages.

A 'Mr No-body' in the Mottahedeh Collection was sold Sotheby's, New York, 19 October 2000, lot 367 ($55,000), and is now in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, illustrated in Howard and Ayers 1978, China for the West, pp. 577-78 and W.R. Sargent Treasures of Chinese Export Ceramics, p. 446-47. Additional examples are in the Groninger Museum (inv. no. 1960-114) and the Victoria and Albert Museum from the Ionides Collection (mus. no. C.7&A-1951), illustrated in Rose and Mengoni Chinese Export Ceramics p.76, pl.104.

Christie's. English Pottery and Chinese Export Art, 28 January 2013, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.