This is a striking pottery figure in Tzu Chou (Cizhou) ceramic with a tan glaze and dark brown and black highlights. It portrays a standing man with his arms lightly folded. His hair is shaped into two top knots on the opposite sides of his head. His facial features are outlined in a dark brown - and there is a very tiny black beard just under the center of his lower lip. The piece is 9 1/2" tall by 3 1/2" wide by 2 7/8" deep.
There are some few brown overglaze features outlining his garment - just enough to see the general outline of the garment. The knees and the tips of his shoes are also done in the dark brown overglaze. There is a small black paint splash/streak across the middle of his back. The thin tan glaze ends just above the base of the figure.
The figure is in very good condition - we date it to the middle to late Qing dynasty - possibly older. There is a small scuff mark on the tip of the man's nose and another on the back of the right shoulder. The two top knots also have very light scuffing on the edges. There are tiny kiln flaws in several locations.
This piece came from the same fine West Coast dealer as that where we obtained the fine Tzu Chou pillow listed further back in out listings. It is possible that it is also from the Cox collection as the workmanship is very nearly identical; however, there are no old collection labels by which we can validate that provenance. Therefore we are taking the conservative approach and dating it to the 19th century. All in all, a fine example of early Chinese pottery.
Tz'u-chou is a term used to classify a wide range of northern Chinese stonewares made principally in Hopeh, Honan, Shansi, and Shantung provinces between the Sung and Ming dynasties (960-1644). Tz'u-chou arose from the tradition of T'ang dynasty (618-906) white wares, but coarse local clays required the use of a creamy white slip to mask the dark color of the buff-grey body. This white slip is the distinguishing characteristic of Tz'u-chou ceramics which consisted primarily of inexpensive wares for everyday use.
The success and longevity of Tz'u-chou wares can be attributed to their middle class popularity and regional economic base. Sturdily potted and utilitarian, they did not depend heavily upon court patronage or export revenues like other Chinese ceramic wares.