The inspiration for these figures would most likely have been the dark-skinned foreigners, called 'black' by the Chinese whether African, Indian or Persian, and who were known to have been in China as early as the seventh century. By the seventeenth century Africans were rarely seen in the Qing capital at Beijing, although a large community could be found in Macao where they worked as stevedores on Portuguese carracks and as servants in Jesuit missions, charity hospitals and private households.
Compare also the very similar figure of a 'Nubian slave girl' holding a cornucopia and standing on a leaf-shaped plinth in the collection of S.E. Kennedy, Esq., illustrated by E. Gorer and J.F. Blacker, Chinese Porcelain and Hardstones, vol. I, London, 1911, pl. 74 and later sold in these Rooms, 21 June 1916, Lot 80, and colour frontispiece. It was again illustrated by G. Reitlinger, The Economics of Taste, London, vol. II, p. 328. A clock flanked by a pair of similar figures was included in the exhibition, Chinesischer Kunst, Berlin, 1929, Catalogue, no. 1012.
Compare also the two blackamoor figures from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller, sold in our New York Rooms, 23 March 1995, lot 367.