Lot 90. A Gilt-Bronze Figure of a Water Buffalo, Late Ming-Early Qing Dynasty; 17.2 cm., 7 in. Estimate 400,000 — 600,000 HKD. Lot sold 500,000 HKD. Photo Sotheby's.
naturalistically cast as a muscular buffalo sturdily standing on four cloven feet, the raised head turned to the left, its dignified features depicted with alert round eyes and a ruyi-shape nose, framed by a pair of curved mighty horns, above pointed ears with finely incised lines representing the fur, the hunched shoulder covered with extra layers of loose skin leading to an attenuated lean body, terminating with a long tail swished alongside its left hind leg.
Note: Small gilt-bronze sculptures of animals from the late Ming dynasty are frequently found, utilised as paperweights or accoutrements for the scholar’s desk, but it is extremely rare to find a figure of this large size and weight. Although it could possibly have been used as a large paperweight, it is more likely that it was made as a freestanding sculpture for the personal enjoyment or prestige of a wealthy individual. The sheer quality of the casting process, which has enabled a bold portrayal of a water buffalo with naturalistic attention to its poised posture and well rounded, muscular body, places it alongside the select group of large jade water buffaloes recorded in museum and private collections. These differ from the current gilt-bronze example in that the animals are depicted recumbent or reclining, but never standing. For a jade water buffalo from the collection of Sir Joseph Hotung, previously sold in our London rooms, 1st November 1966, lot 47, see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum Press, London, 1995, cat. no. 26:19. See also an example from the collection of Somerset de Chair, sold in our London rooms, 9th June 2004, lot 151.
For a smaller gilt-bronze ‘buffalo and boy’ paperweight sold at auction, see the example sold in these rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1708.
Sotheby's. Gods and Beasts – Gilt Bronzes from the Speelman Collection, Hong Kong, 08 Apr 2014