Elephants appear to have been seldom represented in Tang pottery. They were seen as exotic animals as well as being associated with buddhism. The use of the lotus flower symbolising mental purity, for the shape of the candle holder underlines this. From the Han period onwards, performances by foreigners with elephants were much admired. See E. Jia, Notes on the Han-Tang Dynasty Acts with Trained Elephants (Han Tang jian baixi zhong de xiangwu), Wenwu, 1982, vol.9, pp. 53-60.
Elephants mounted as candle holders are rare and the few known examples are glazed and much smaller in size than the present lot. For one mounted with both candle holder and foreigner, see 'Treasures from the Rietberg Museum (Zürich)', Asia Society, New York, 1980, Exhibition Catalogue, no. 46. A green-glazed example is illustrated in Henze, Chinese Tomb Figures, 1919, pl. 36. A white-glazed elephant with a height of about 35 cm. and with a with similar lotus-shaped candle holder and bearded foreigner as the present lot, was part of the Jacob Goldschmidt Collection, and exhibited in 'Ausstellung Chinesischer Kunst, Preussische Akademie der Kunste', Berlin, 1929, Exhibition Catalogue, no. 365, and later sold at Sotheby's New York, 24 March 1998, lot 571.
The dating of this lot is consistent with the result of the Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test (samples taken from the tusk, backside of elephant and rider).