Chinese Lions in the 19th and 20th centuries

Twenty examples of Chinese Lions/Foo Dogs on porcelain are shown below. They are all examples from the 19th century (since the Jiaqing) and the first half of the 20th century. This is a follow-on from a discussion on the Gotheborg forum but where I was unable to upload the images with my flukey internet service. The images are in no particular order.

So, we are concentrating on the Chinese Lions/Foo dogs themselves and how they may have changed throughout this 150 year period. As I began to focus on the individual lions for this exercise, I had the best time! Some of the lion’s faces are straight out of ‘The Simpsons’! So GR’s idea of them as cartoons is spot on. But this is truly how they are, and they are madder and crazier than dragons, I’ve decided. Take a look…. (excuse the quality of some of the images).

LionsComp_1aLionsComp_1b LionsComp_1m  C19th wine cup

LionsComp_2a LionsComp_2b LionsComp_2mTea Cup, 4 character stamped iron red Qianlong seal mark with a double border, late C19th/early C20th

LionsComp_3a Straight sided turquoise ground bowl, iron red Guangxu mark, probably of the period, but these are dogs, not lions???

LionsComp_4b LionsComp_4aLionsComp_4m Straight sided turquoise ground bowl, Jiaqing seal mark and ‘CHINA’ mark, either of period or Guangxu (can’t tell from pictures, but probably Guangxu)

LionsComp_5a LionsComp_5b LionsComp_5m Turquoise ground bowl
with Jiaqing seal mark, possibly of the period, again dogs, not lions?

LionsComp_6a LionsComp_6b LionsComp_6m Six-sided lidded jar, Jiaqing seal mark, possibly of the period or early C20th

LionsComp_7a LionsComp_7b LionsComp_7m Footed dish, handwritten Tongzhi seal mark, probably of the period – these guys are quite cartoon-like already

LionsComp_8a LionsComp_8b LionsComp_8m Small yellow ground teapot with multi-coloured keyfret , stamped Qianlong kaishu mark, red, Republic

LionsComp_9a LionsComp_9b LionsComp_9m Turquoise ground plate, Jiaqing seal mark but late C19th/earlyC20th, these are dogs again

LionsComp_10a LionsComp_10b LionsComp_10m Turquoise ground plate with multi-coloured key fret, stamped Qianlong kaishu mark, red, Republic

LionsComp_11a LionsComp_11b LionsComp_11m Small plate, handwritten Tongzhi seal mark, probably of the period. These guys are straight from‘The Simpsons’ with those noses!

LionsComp_12a LionsComp_12b LionsComp_12m Yellow ground tea bowl, stamped Guangxu kaishu mark, Republic

LionsComp_13a LionsComp_13b LionsComp_13m Bowl with handwritten Qianlong kaishu mark, Republic

LionsComp_14a LionsComp_14b LionsComp_14m Footed dish, handwritten Tongzhi seal mark and probably of the period.

LionsComp_15a LionsComp_15b LionsComp_15m Yellow ground bowl with everted rim, 4 character handwritten Jiajing seal mark, but earlyC20th

LionsComp_16a LionsComp_16b LionsComp_16m Yellow ground sauce dish with multi-coloured key fret, stamped Guangxu kaishu mark and ‘CHINA’, Republic

LionsComp_17a LionsComp_17b LionsComp_17m Plate with 4 character stamped iron red Qianlong seal mark with a double border, late C19th/early C20th

LionsComp_18a LionsComp_18b LionsComp_18m Bowl with multi-coloured key fret and a querkily handwritten Guangxu kaishu mark, probably Republic but could be of the period

LionsComp_19a LionsComp_19b LionsComp_19m Six sided footed dish with yellow ground, handwritten Tongzhi seal mark, probably of the period

LionsComp_20a LionsComp_20b LionsComp_20m Large lidded turquoise ground tureen, with stamped circle mark ‘Jiangxi Zhang Rong Ji Chu Pin’, late Republic

So, these animals appear on turquoise Jiaqing (and later, Guangxu, copies), on Tongzhi plates and footed dishes and on a range of utilitarian wares of variable quality from the Republic. Most of the Republic period examples have a multi-coloured key fret. The quality of painting is quite variable across the whole time period with cartoon-like renderings present in Jiaqing, Tongzhi, Guangxu marked pieces as well the Republic period pieces. The earlier lions seem to be rounder and more detailed but not universally. Some have flowing ‘manes’ and tails, others are very curly, not age related. All have ribboned flower balls, except the examples with actual dogs (which we should leave out in future IMO), and some lions have the flower balls in their mouths. In essence there is no real pattern through time, they are reasonably individualistic, and some are like cartoons. It is, however, reasonably easy to date them with a combination of shape, ground colour, marks and presence of multi-coloured key fret.

Best wishes, Michaela

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