A large marble figure of a seated lion, China, Tang dynasty (AD 618-907). Estimate $100,000 - $150,000. Price Realized $317,000 . Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2015
Boldly carved sitting on its hind legs, its powerful forepaws supporting the lithe body, the face with open mouth, bared fangs, and lolling tongue, the eyes with furrowed expression and the mane in tight curls - 20 3/8 in. (51.8 cm.) high
Provenance: Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, before 1964.
Collection of Christian Humann (d. 1981), Pan-Asian Collection, New York.
Robert H. Ellsworth Collection, New York, acquired 1982
Exhibited: On loan: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1964-1982.
Notes: In contrast to the earlier stylized and geometric representations of animals in the Han dynasty (206 BC- AD 220), the artists of the Tang dynasty imbued their depictions of animals with naturalistic qualities. In few other cases is this shift more evident than in the sculptures of lions, which in the Tang dynasty become important guardian figures and symbols of imperial prestige and power. The Tang emperors greatly expanded the borders of their realm, and through trade and tributary alliances, their sphere of influence was greater than any other previous dynasty. Lions were said to have been among the gifts of tribute to the Tang emperors, and their form was closely studied in both painting and sculpture. The powerful, muscular body and the ferocious expression of the present figure are hallmarks of Tang sculptural vitality and naturalism.
Christie's. THE COLLECTION OF ROBERT HATFIELD ELLSWORTH PART I - MASTERWORKS INCLUDING INDIAN, HIMALAYAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN WORKS OF ART, CHINESE AND JAPANESE WORKS OF ART, 17 March 2015, New York, Rockefeller Plaza