A very rare Qing dynasty nodding head figure of a man dressed in his original apparel.


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A very rare Qing dynasty nodding head figure of a man dressed in his original apparel.

A barefoot peasant man warming his hands over the fire.

China, late 18th or early 19th century.

Painted clay, papier maché, wood, silk, hair and moss.

Measures approx. height 22 cm or 8 1/2  inch and length 24 cm or 9 1/2inch.

Price 2900 USD

This Chinese figure represents a type of decorative object exported from Canton to Europe and America toward the end of the 18th century. These figures were a popular collector’s item, especially in the Western world. In the late 1770s more than 100 nodding head figures are found in the Swedish Royal palace of Drottningholm. This example has unreadable swedish text on the underside of the base – could it be a sign of it once belonging to the Drottningholm collection? The “nodders” were collected in order to gain understanding of Chinese everyday life and the figures usually show various professions. Yet normally depicting deities, officials of high rank or ancestors, it is unusual that this example portray a person of normal life.

The “nodders” are so-called because the heads are separate from the body, attached to a pendulum-like weight suspended within the frame of the figure; when the head is touched it moves back and forth in a nodding motion. In addition to the nodding head the arms were also moveable.
Most examples that survive are composed of painted clay, porcelain and papier maché and it is extremely rare to find figures like the present example retaining their original silk apparel and hair. Furthermore, it is modelled with astonishing anatomical accuracy and expression. The base also contains a small compartment.


Condition: The figure shows signs of age and use. Broken parts, tears, restored flaws, loss of material here and there and restorations are visible.