It has been suggested that figures of this type, holding large vases and other objects that could function as receptacles, such as cupped lotus blossoms, were intended to serve as candleholders and enjoyed considerable popularity with the elite of Europe.
Compare the similar pair of figures holding vases illustrated in W. G. Gulland, Chinese Porcelain, vol. II, London, 1918, nos. 714-15; a single figure of this type, illustrated in D. Howard and J. Ayers, China for the West, vol. II, London, 1978, p. 615, no. 644; a pair of figures holding lotus blossoms, included in the exhibition, Important Chinese Export Porcelain and Works of Art, The Chinese Porcelain Company, New York, 11 - 30 May 1998, no. 59; the pair of figures holding vessels in the form of lingzhi, sold at Bonham's, Export Art of the China Trade, 18 March 2003, lot 148; and the pair of figures holding vases similar to those of the present lot, sold in these rooms, 30 May 1991, lot 370.