Chinese couple made of painted pottery

These painted clay figures were made in China for foreign traders. They were produced in response to the global fascination with all things Chinese. Similar figures entered the British royal collection in the 18th century. Probably made in Guangzhou, the figures could depict Chinese of various classes, as well as European and (more rarely) Indian traders.The careful painting of the clay gives the figures an astonishing realism. The heads are mounted so that they rock back and forth; the type is often called “nodding-head figures”. The clothing and accessories of these examples are made of real silk, hair, and jewellery. The men wear rank badges to signify their status as mandarins. Unusually, the figures themselves are anatomically correct.