Lot 1635A very rare gilt-bronze figure of Lu Dongbin, Yuan-Early Ming Dynasty, 13th-14th century; 13 in. (33 cm.) highEstimate USD 150,000 - USD 200,000. Price realised USD 182,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

Shown seated and dressed in long robes tied at the waist and falling in loose folds to the tops of his shoes with upturned ends, holding a rolled scroll in his left hand and a fan aloft in his right, with a sheathed sword slung over his shoulder, and a small double-gourd suspended below his right sleeve, his head turned to his left and with intent gaze above the three long wisps of his beard, his hair pulled up behind a tall scholar's cap tied at the back, the tabs trailing down his shoulders, the figure covered overall in a rich gilding, wood stand. 

Note: The scholar's attire, sword and gourd identify the figure as Lu Dongbin, one of the eight immortals. Lu is venerated by the Quanzhen sect of Daoism as its founding patriarch and in this capacity he is known as Chunyang Zi or Lu Zu. According to legend, he had a love of alcohol, and excelled in swordsmanship, poetry and calligraphy. His love of letters is highlighted by the scroll held in his left hand. He was also known as a healer, which accounts for the gourd suspended from his belt, and as a slayer of demons. As such, he is recognized as the patron deity of ink-makers, pharmacists, exorcists, magicians and interestingly, barbers.

Veneration of Lu became widespread during the Song dynasty, and by the Yuan period, many temples were dedicated to him, the most well-known being the Chunyang Dian at the Yongle Gong. A Yuan dynasty portrait of Lu in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City is illustrated by S. Little in Taoism and the Arts of China, Chicago, 2000, p. 324, no. 120.

Figures like the present lot would have been enshrined in altars in wealthy homes, or in the guild halls of the various professions that recognize Lu as patron deity.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Part I and Part II Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 24 March 2011