Pair of Regency Chinese Export Polychromed Clay Nodding-Head Figures of Dignitaries


The male modelled standing with a handkerchief in one hand, wearing a hat and his hair in a plait of horsehair, his robes elaborately decorated with clouds and dragons, the female figure modelled standing with a handkerchief in one hand and wearing jade green earrings and flowers in her hair and pale yellow robes embroidered with flowers. Both standing on square painted wood bases

Height 28 cm (11 inches)
Width 10 cm (4 inches)
Depth 10 cm (4 inches)
Early 19th century

Chinese nodding-head figures are documented in England and Continental Europe as early as the 1760’s and 1770’s and Zoffany’s famous portrait depicting Queen Charlotte in her Dressing Room at Buckingham Palace painted in 1764 shows two such figures in the background (see C. Saumarez Smith, Eighteenth Century Decoration, New York, 1993, p. 255, fig. 246).

Nodding-head figures were imported into England, Europe and America from Canton in large numbers from the 1780’s. The fashion for such types of figurines in England was largely due to the pronounced predilection of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in the late 18th and early 19th century. The Prince Regent’s interest in Chinese decoration was reflected first in the decoration of his Chinese Drawing Room at Carlton House, whilst the Oriental interiors at Brighton Pavilion further illustrated his fascination for all things exotic.

A number of Chinese figures of this type were prominently displayed in the corridor of the Pavilion (see J. Morley, The Making of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, Boston, 1984, pp. 169-176).
A pair of Chinese nodding figures was sold, ‘Regence to Fabergé: an apartment by Ned Johnson’, Christie’s, London, 20 May 2010, lot 70 (£25,000 with premium).