Chinese, ca. 19th century CE. The Chinese have always appreciated beauty in unexpected forms such as unusual stones and contorted pieces of wood or tree roots like this gnarled tree root. In some examples, little if anything is done to enhance the natural beauty of the gnarled wood, while in others a sculptor has worked the hollows and knotted grains conjure certain imagery - mountains, forests, or animals. The human hand, however, is near invisible with little evidence of intervention. Size: 6.75" W x 6.625" H (17.1 cm x 16.8 cm)
In 2006, the Peabody Essex Museum presented an exhibition entitled, "Carved by Nature: Untamed Traditions in Chinese Decorative Art" featuring works similar to this piece. The curatorial team's descriptions included the following, "Objects made from naturally contorted wood have been appreciated in China for millennia. These organic forms appealed to Buddhists and Daoists seeking to convey an attitude of humility and an affinity with nature. The untamed character of the objects could be seen as a symbol of the rejection of opulence, in favor of beauty beyond human control. In later centuries, scholar-aesthetes found the rustic features of the gnarled wood reminiscent of ancient trees that symbolized the wisdom of sages. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), fantastic wood forms appealed to the flamboyant tastes of the period, and many wealthy Chinese collectors surrounded themselves with furnishings of twisted wood."
Provenance: Ex-New Jersey Collection
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