A Rare Pair Of Chinese Pewter Models Of Elephants.
The elephants are beautifully modeled in pewter, a soft metal which lent itself well to figural work but which was rarely used. The elephants stand facing each other with long tusks and trunks, the tips facing upward on rectangular pewter bases. The sides of the bases are carved into the form of a bat. Around the top corners of the base is openwork fencing. Atop the backs of the elephants are long blankets reaching down towards the ground with an urn mounted above. From the mouth of the urn rise three prongs, like spears and mounted on the central prong is a shaped container with a candle prong.
These figures are profusely decorated with auspicious designs that mostly relate to longevity, good luck and conjugal harmony. Thus upon each blanket are butterflies- the emblem of joy and further the sign of conjugal felicity, almost a Chinese cupid. There are also flowers and roundels with flowers, as well as one of the eight Buddhist symbols: the conch-shell, also an insignia of royalty. In the center is a shou character representing Good Luck.
On the urn are two further variations on the shou character and hanging near the top, once again a butterfly is depicted as are two bats. Bats were regarded as benign, the emblem of long life and happiness. The bat is red, the colour of joy. Red is used extensively as a highlight on the figures. Red is the colour of the sun. It characterizes summer and the south and is associated with fire. Red is the colour of joy and happiness; it also betokens wealth.
It has been suggested that from the symbolism found on these figures, they appear to have been made for a very important high Chinese official, maybe to celebrate an important wedding anniversary. There are three impressed inscriptions, one appears to relate to the workshop, one to the dynasty and one that reads, in part: New Happiness and Fortune. This can also be translated as a maker's mark Xin Fu Xing. There are also marks that translate as real material, commonly seen on other pewter objects. One mark reads If not real, guarantee to exchange.