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Lot details

China, 1736-1795. Of baluster form with a handle in the form of a clambering chilong and a sloping lip. Carved with sparse C-shaped scrolls to the upper register, dense scrolls and two roundels with scroll designs to the middle register, and stiff leaves and key-fret to the lower register. The translucent stone of a pale celadon tone with russet veins and cloudy white inclusions. The concave base neatly incised with a four-character mark Qianlong nianzhi and of the period.

Provenance: A private collector in the United Kingdom.
Condition: Very good condition with minor old wear, microscopic nicks, the stone with natural fissures, some of which have developed into small hairline cracks over time.

Weight: 225.9 g
Dimensions: Height 12.7 cm

Expert’s note: The Qianlong Emperor’s great love of jade combined with his passion for antiques resulted in his commissioning significant numbers of archaistic jade items for his court. The present lot belongs to an important group of such objects, all carved from ‘impure’ jade with prominent fissures and inclusions, erroneously believed by some to be anathema to the Emperor. On the contrary, jades carved from this specific material were one of his greatest passions. During the 44th year of the Qianlong reign (1779), the Suzhou Manufactory was ordered to create a jade vase from a piece of shanliao (nephrite) raw jade. Because of cracks in the jade, the intended size was not possible, and the manufactory sought further instruction from the Emperor. Qianlong responded that if by reducing the size of the finished vase the cracks could be avoided, that would be a good solution, but if even then the cracks could not be avoided, then it would be better to maintain the intended size, as such cracks were a natural characteristic of jade after all. In fact, the Qianlong Emperor believed that defects such as spots and cracks added to the archaic feeling of a work.

This aesthetic use of material defects can also be seen in other archaistic jade objects created during the Qianlong reign (see Auction result comparison), indicating that the Emperor considered the craft and decorative program of a jade object more important than the quality of the raw material. Although Qianlong had always had a love of the past, he only promoted the production of archaistic jades in society at large during the middle and late periods of his reign, due to the appearance of certain new kinds of jade that he detested. In the 39th year of his reign (1774), Qianlong criticized the “wretched new forms of jade” in his writing, and later proceeded to lodge repeated criticisms against other new-fangled forms that he considered unacceptably vulgar for being overwrought, excessively ornate, or slavish towards raw materiality. He regarded the popularity of such forms as a “catastrophe for jade”. Whether these forms strike us today as indeed catastrophic or rather innovative, it is clear that the Emperor found them unbearable.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 26 May 2013, lot 131
Price: HKD 475,000 or approx. EUR 75,500 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: An imperial archaistic jade 'phoenix' snuff bottle attributed to the palace workshops, mark and period of Qianlong
Expert remark: Compare the closely related color of the stone, and fine incision work.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 3 April 2018, lot 3638
Price: HKD 21,720,000 or approx. EUR 2,963,500 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: An imperial, highly important and magnificent Khotan-green jade archaistic vase, Fanggu mark and period of Qianlong
Expert remark: Compare the closely related color of the stone, and fine incision work. Note the size (41.5 cm)

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 May 2014, lot 3370
Price: HKD 2,920,000 or approx. EUR 445,500 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: A rare large imperial jade archaistic vase, Qianlong four-character, Fanggu mark inscribed in a line and of the period (1736-1795)
Expert remark: Compare the closely related color of the stone, and fine incision work. Note the size (33 cm)

中國,1736-1795年。角形杯,攀爬的螭龍,龍首上仰,修長矯健的身軀,成杯把。 玉杯上部有如意卷紋,中部刻卷葉紋,下部刻有雷紋和蟬紋。淡青色半透明玉料,帶有赤褐色紋理和白色絮狀内沁。圈足内刻“乾隆年製”四字款。


重量:225.9 克
尺寸:高12.7 厘米


這種對材質缺陷的審美運用,在乾隆時期的其他古玉器中也可見到(見拍賣結果比較​​),說明皇帝認為玉器的工藝和紋飾比原材料的質量更重要。 乾隆雖對古玉一向情有獨鍾,但由於他厭惡某些新玉的出現,到了中後期才在社會上廣泛推廣仿古玉的製作工藝。乾隆三十九年(1774年),乾隆在他的文章裏批評了“新玉”,後來又對其他新玉提出了反复的批評,他認為過分誇張、過分華麗、庸俗不堪,或對原材料的奴性。他認為這種形式的流行是“玉的災難”。無論這些形式在今天給我們留下了深刻的印像還是具有創新性,很明顯,皇帝都覺得它們難以忍受。

拍賣:香港蘇富比,2013年5月26日,lot 131
價格:HKD 475,000(相當於今日EUR 75,500
描述:清乾隆御製仿古玉雕「鳳凰瑞獸」執壺式鼻煙壺,(傳)御作坊製 《乾隆年製》款

拍賣:香港蘇富比,2018年4月3日,lot 3638
價格:HKD 21,720,000(相當於今日EUR 2,963,500
專家評論:比較非常相近的玉石顏色和雕刻。請注意尺寸 (41.5厘米)。

拍賣:香港佳士得,2014年5月28日,lot 3370
價格:HKD 2,920,000(相當於今日EUR 445,500


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