Jade. China, Six Dynasties, 3rd-6th century AD
Finely carved in the round as a crouching bixie, its mouth open in a roar revealing tongue and teeth, the head further detailed with thick brows, curled ears, and a furcated horn, the body with neatly incised wings, muscular limbs, and furcated tail. The mostly translucent stone of a white tone with pale brown shadings and cloudy inclusions.
Moving away from the highly stylized depictions of animals in the Shang and Zhou dynasties, artisans of the Han dynasty and Six Dynasties developed a more naturalistic approach to representing animals. This aesthetic was applied to images of both real and mythical creatures, and across artistic mediums. At the same time, lapidary arts flourished, and jade animals of unprecedentedly high quality started to be carved. The present bixie is a superb example of the sculptural practices of the period, and the era's enthusiasm for miraculous creatures that were believed to be portents possessing supernatural power.
Compare with a bixie excavated from an early Western Han tomb in Shaanxi province, illustrated by Yang Boda, Zhongguo meishu quanji: yuqi (Chinese Works of Art Series: Jade), vol. 9, Beijing 1986, no. 174, and a bixie in the collection of the Palace Museum and dated to the Northern and Southern dynasties, illustrated ibid., no. 212.
Auction comparison: Compare a related jade bixie, dated Han to Six Dynasties, 7 cm long, at Sotheby’s New York in Important Chinese Art on 21 September 2021, lot 46 (sold for USD 107,100).
LENGTH 10.2 cm
Provenance: Private collection of Professor Filippo Salviati.
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