Elephant Jardinière


Chongzhen Period 1628–1644

Skilful brushstrokes in deepening shades of blue create the heavy folds of skin of this voluminous elephant. Standing amongst various pots and jars of water, he looks with some trepidation at the two figures standing to one side, a military officer and a Buddhist monk.

Perhaps his wariness is due to the fact that
he knows he about to be washed. The scene of ‘washing the elephant’ or saoxiang translates literally as ‘sweeping the elephant’. Interestingly the word xiang is a homophone, meaning both elephant and illusion. Thus we have a scene whose meaning can be interpreted as ‘sweeping away illu- sions’, a pun that the Ming literati would no doubt have appreciated.

The elephant occupies a significant position
in Buddhist legend. The Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya, had been childless for many years when she was visited in a dream by a white elephant holding a white lotus. It walked around her three times and entered her womb; at that moment the Buddha was conceived.

h: 18.2cm dia: 21.5cm

71∕5in 81⁄2in


高: 18.2 公分 直徑: 21.5公分

71∕5 英寸 81∕2 英寸