For centuries, a variety of materials have been used to carve statues ranging from bead like netsuke to large life like symbols of power and prestige. In China, archeologists have unearthened hordes of clay armies that went down with the ruler at his burial. These life-like statues symbolize the important role of representation of mankind, even at death.
The use of small statues and netsuke has been an integral part of Asian civilizations where symbolic representations gave vent to the artist’s feelings and conveyed meanings more than words. Apart from the practical usage of statues and carved beads, as decorative items, the conventional and repressed society of Asia, it was not possible to even talk of any subject of sexual connotation while the distinction between the sexes were evident. It was during this time that art and culture was at its peak and China came to be forerunner in terms of exquisite and delicate porcelain manufacturer apart from other artistic highlights.
However, artists and sculptors gave a free hand to intricately carved delineated nude and semi nude sculptures and one of them had a practical use- The famed Doctor’s Lady. These sculptures were intrinsically carved with each body part clearly demarcated, 10-25 inches in length and were either completely nude or semi nude. These figurines served a very practical purpose- they were sad to be part of the Chinese medicine man’s kit and female patients were allowed to pinpoint the location of their problem or discomfort by pointing it out on these statues. The modesty and repressions or traditions of the society can be judged even today based on numerous such artifacts that have been collected and unearthened or even mentioned in ancient texts. Most of the Doctor’s Lady can be traced back to the Ming and Qing epoch when the repression to free expression was the highest.
A multitude of such carvings of Doctor’s Lady were created from a variety of different materials such as amber, resin, mammoth ivory, soapstone, gemstones and catered to a variety of classes within the society. Ivory has always been a favored material to carve as it is hard on the outside but softer within and is known for its gloss, color and finish.
Over a period of time, these exotic figurines gained a wider popularity and came to be used as netsuke and amulets that did not serve a practical purpose. A majority of later day Doctor’s Lady were more ornamental than serving the original purpose.
Browse our Mammoth ivory Figurines collection.