Subject:Re: Interesting Porcelain Immortal with sealed cavity
Posted By: Bill H Thu, Aug 03, 2017
I believe mid-to-late 19th century is a safe bet for dating your figurine, which was made to resemble the early Qing Kangxi-period (1662-1722) style of modeling. See the link for examples in a three-color (sancai) palette, as sold in the USA by the respected North Carolina auctioneer, Brunk.
I perceive some differences in the Kangxi enamels and clays used for period-molded images, when compared to figures like yours, which exhibit a biscuit tone and clay consistency more like what's used at Shiwan, where the popular "mudmen" are made. However, the resemblance to Kangxi-era molded figures seems to have ensured that such items will command noteworthy prices, depending on their condition. I've seen complete sets of all Eight of these Immortals priced at almost a thousand dollars apiece at antique shows & sales in recent years. Yours would have a more modest value due to apparent restoration and breakage around the midriff and elsewhere.
You're on the right track in this case about the sealed cavity increasing value, because by the early 20th century, Chinese molding of figurines like these had switched to the easier and less expensive method called "slip-casting", where the "slip" (thick glaze) was swirled around and allowed to dry through several coats inside a flexible or separable mold before it was taken out, decorated and fired.
I've included some photos below of three examples of these Immortal figures in my own collection. The cost was only US$30-$40 each, based on the seller's assessment of value and condition. Their plinths are painted and shaped somewhat more evenly than on yours, possibly a sign that yours is a few years older. One of these figures is marked in a black pigment with the character "feng" (a mountain peak, summit or thing of value. I assume this may be a factory name or potter's given name. However, the presence of fingerprints and lack of export markings indicates all likely date from circa 1890 or earlier.