Figures of this type have in the past been known as 'medicine ladies' or 'doctor's models', based on the notion that when a doctor visited a woman she would reach through the curtains of her bed and touch the ivory figure to indicate the spot causing her trouble. Figures like the present one are now believed to have had a more erotic intention, and their nakedness and specific position to be based on Sino-Spanish ivory figures of the infant Jesus that would have been seen by Chinese craftsmen during the Ming dynasty. For the Sino-Spanish proptotype and a Chinese ivory carving of a recumbent woman, dated late 16th-early 17th century, see the exhibition catalogue, Chinese Ivories from the Shang to the Qing, British Museum, London, 1984, p. 42, figs. 6 and 7. Another similar figure is illustrated in Chinese Ivories from the Kwan Collection, Art Gallery, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1990, pp. 218-9, no. 97.