Jade. China, Han dynasty, 1st century BC – 1st century AD
The strong impact of this disc is given by the twisting and turning of the sculptural dragons carved in high relief. The top is decorated with two dragons that encircle and overlap the surface of the disc. Their tails, bodies, and heads form a series of curves that cover the entire surface in such a way that it is difficult to discern where one dragon ends and the other begins: in fact, the neck and appendages of one attach to the other’s curled, wavy tail. Their turned back heads curve into the center of the disc and face their bodies that are decorated with a simple carved line that runs along the entire length. Tear-drop incisions, parallel lines and double lines define the limbs, tails, and other details of the bodies, while the two carved parallel lines that define the snout curve outwards to describe the eyes. Engraved lines create a thin border along the circumference of the disc and the internal hole, and the surface of the back is filled in with a pattern of raised carved curls.
Visible transition of the alteration of the stone, from the top carved area through towards the bottom, is evident by the changes in color: about half of the bottom and all the carved decorations on the top have turned white, grayish, and opaque. The disc is heavily encrusted with black and turquoise deposits in all the grooves and carved areas which are due to contact with iron and bronze, respectively. The corrosion has given way to multiple nicks around the exterior of the disc and in a few places on the outer area of the carving. The jade retains its smooth, shiny texture and some of its translucency, mostly on the bottom part of the disc.
The presence of small metal encrustations suggest that this ring was used as a sword fitting, most likely as a pommel.
Compare with a round sword fitting from the Arthur M. Sackler collection at Christie’s New York in Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 16 September 2010, lot 984 (part lot), sold for USD 10,625, and another, also carved with chilong, at Christie’s Hong Kong in Adorning the Kings - A Private Collection of Archaic Jade Ornaments on 31 May 2017, lot 2711 (part lot), sold for HKD 8,460,000.
DIAMETER 6.5 cm
Provenance: Collection of Prof. Filippo Salviati, formerly from the estate of a Roman diplomat, acquired at Babuino auction house in March 2018 (copy of acquisition receipt available).
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