This figure of a seated lion is modelled in an extremely rare stance. The majority of Tang ceramic lions are modelled seated squarely on their hind legs with both forelegs straight and head facing forward, as in the example excavated in 1958 from a tomb in Hebei province illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua daquan - taoci juan, Taipei, 1993, p. 159, no. 545, or are seated with one hind leg raised and the head turned to bite it, as in the example excavated in 1955 from a tomb at Xi'an, ibid., no. 546. The current lion adopts a variant of the latter pose. Its head is turned and a hind leg is raised, but in this case the animal appears to be scratching the side of its head in a naturalistic and rather charming manner.
Another lion in similar pose, although the hind paw has not quite reached the head, in the Seikado Museum, Tokyo is illustrated by Masahiko Sato and Gakuji Hasebe (eds.) in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1976, p. 87, no. 67. In both cases the eyes of the creature are half closed, as if in anticipation of relief from an irritating itch. Interestingly, another lion - this one biting its leg - in the Seikado Museum, ibid. p. 86, no. 66, is seated on a rocky stand modelled in an almost identical fashion to the current example, with narrow oblique grooves around the sides, and grooved indentations at the upper edge. Both the Seikado Museum lions share with the current creature a rope-like tail curled around the flank under the raised leg. A further somewhat less elaborate figure of a lion scratching its head, was excavated in 1955 in Xi'an, and is now in the National Museum of History in Beijing illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji - Gongyi meishu bian 2 taoci (zhong), Shanghai, 1988, p. 28 and 68, no. 77.
This stance for the lion with hind leg raised to scratch its face remained popular in later periods. A Liao white-glazed stoneware lion in similar posture seated on the cover of a censer from the Eumorfopoulos Collection and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum is illustrated by J. Ayers in Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, fig. 74.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C103j51 is consistent with the dating of this lot.