Previously sold at Sotheby's London, 16 December 1980 and sold again on 16 June 1998, lot 232.
The present lot appears to be a very rare example of Daoist imagery from the early Ming period. A close example, inscribed with a bingxu cyclical date (1406), modelled with figures arranged on three registers and partially gilded, is illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p. 500, fig. 16:95. The figures along the middle grotto of the British Museum shrine, is modelled with the 'Three Purities', the highest deities of the Daoist pantheon who have been identified as Yuanshi tianzun (the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Being), Daode tianzun (the Celestial Worthy of the Way and its Power), and Lingbao tianzun (the Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure) holding a ruyi, cf. op. cit., 2001, p. 499. It is possible that the present seated deity who holds a ruyi be identified as Lingbao tianzun.
Compare also similarly modelled Buddhist shrines with figures of Guanyin, cf. the group illustrated in Porcelains from the Tianjin Museum, 1993, pl. 68, and another example illustrated by J. Thompson, Arts of Asia, 'Chinese Celadons', November-December 1993, p. 64, illustrated on the cover, and sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 5 November 1996, lot 615.