A large and impressive bronze figure of Liu Hai Early 18th century

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Lot 200
A large and impressive bronze figure of Liu Hai
Early 18th century

Sold for £ 13,750 (US$ 18,892) inc. premium

Asian Art

19 Feb 2014, 10:30 GMT

London, Knightsbridge

A large and impressive bronze figure of Liu Hai
Early 18th century
The cheerful figure of the God of Wealth cast with striding legs partly covered by a fine flowing skirt knotted with twisted rope beneath the bare belly crossed with further knotted rope, the smiling face looking downwards to the left hand held in front of the body, the right hand raised above the head, the figure attached to a stand cast as a pierced rockwork cliff overhanging a three-legged toad and a crab emerging from foaming waves.
74cm (29in) high

Footnotes

  • Provenance: a European private collection

    Liu Hai and his three-legged toad - both symbols of wealth and prosperity - are popular members of the pantheon of Chinese folk deities; and there are many myths and legends surrounding them that have come down to us.

    One such legend is that Liu Hai was an alchemist and Daoist practitioner who passed by a village where a three-legged toad inhabited a local pond. This three-legged toad would emit a poisonous vapour and harm the villagers; so Liu Hai tempted the toad out with a chain of gold coins and made it his pet.

    Other versions of the story tell that Liu Hai was good friends with the toad, and that the toad could whisk its owner to any destination. If the toad escaped down a well or pond, Liu Hai would tempt it back again with gold coins.

    There is in the collection of the British Museum a closely related bronze figure of Liuhai dated to AD 1723 (museum ref. 1992,0612.1). Of almost identical size but cast standing on top of his three-legged toad, the figure shows very similar treatment in the broadly smiling face and lively stance with slender legs placed wide apart as on the present lot. The British Museum piece also makes explicit the connection between Liuhai and wealth by depicting him holding a large ancient Chinese coin.
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