Chinoiserie nodding-head figures were documented in England and Continental Europe as early as the 1760's and 1770's. The famous Zoffany portrait depicting Queen Charlotte in her Dressing Room at Buckingham Palace painted in 1764 shows two such figures in the background (see C.Saumarez Smith, Eighteenth Century Decoration, New York, 1993, p.255, fig.246). Similarly, figures imported from China in the Danish Royal collection were acquired at auction in 1777 and are discussed in B.Dam-Mikkelsen and T.Lundback, Ethnographic Objects in the Royal Danish Kunsthammer 1650-1800, Copenhagen, 1980, pp.173-179.
A number of similar nodding-head figures have sold at auction. A large group was sold by Christie's at Wateringbury Place, Maidstone, 31 May-2 June 1978, lots 200-204 and some of these bear the signature 'J.D.Gianelli...August 25 1807'. Gianelli was probably Domenico Gianelli (d.1841), assumed to be the son of the sculptor in plaster J.B.Gianelli, who supplied four statues for the Great Hall of Carlton House in 1789. A related Venetian figure of a seated mandarin from the collection of Mino Forti is illustrated in G. Morazzoni, Mobili Veneziani Laccati, Milan, n.d., fig. XCVI.