Chinese Porcelain Water Buffalo, ca. 1880
I remember that it was in my mother-in-law's front hallway. I asked my husband about it, and he said that he doesn't remember ever not seeing it at his grandmother's. We just liked it because it smiles, it seems to smile.
It does smile! So what do you think this is?
I always called it a yak. My husband recently kept telling me it was a water buffalo.
Well, your husband's right.
And this isn't just a water buffalo; this is a recumbent water buffalo. It's a water buffalo at rest. This animal has amazing muscles, it is put to work, it is a really important part of the agricultural community of a number of Southeast Asian and Asian cultures. The colors that you see, this kind of wonderful, kind of rich red color, which comes from copper, is also enhanced by an attempt to realistically depict the other aspects of the animal. So you've got not only the body picked out in this rich red color, but you notice the snout. They've managed to control the glaze very effectively so it isn't the same red. The same with the tail. You notice that the horns have been picked out in another color, as have the hooves. And when we turn this around, we see that that same attention to detail goes through the back. So you have the glaze pulling away from the spine, and this beautiful kind of glaze color dripping down in a very uniform manner through the back. Now, one of the keys in determining age and origin is we always look underneath. And we'll see that we have two apertures so the air could escape. And you notice also around the edge, there's kind of this discoloration. This is where the glaze and the porcelain clay came into contact with some of the material that was in the kiln that adhered to the body, that later was then filed off in a finishing process after this was completed. This is Chinese, and we can tell that because of the model itself and the coloring, but it's not from the main center in Jingdezhen. It's southern China, in Guangdong province. The area that we now know as Guangzhou, which was formerly called Canton, had ceramic manufacturing centers, and they made items such as this. So this is called Guangdong ware. And one of the other interesting things, as we look at this base, which is made of a type of rosewood, you can see that it's cut to configure to the outline of the animal itself. And the decoration on the exterior is all meant to evoke naturalistic plant forms. So looking at the ware, the way this is all done, and knowing other similar examples, I can say with pretty good degree of certainty this was made in the latter part of the 19th century. And I would say if this came up in an auction sale, we would expect it to make between $5,000 and $8,000.
Oh! I'm sorry I've abused him. (laughs) Wow, he's really special, not just the smile!
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