Jade. China, late Eastern Zhou, early Western Han period, 3rd - 2nd century BC
The rounded, dynamic shape of this well-carved and finely detailed ornament is based on the design of a dragon whose coiled body terminates in the head of a long-crested phoenix.
Jades displaying such a configuration of dragons and phoenixes merging together started to be crafted in the Eastern Zhou period and remained in use under the Han dynasty. The bodies of the dragon and the phoenix join at the centre, where they seem to fuse in a single, continuous, graceful line. The curl in the middle, separated from the coiled body of the dragon by a cut-out, stands for both the tip of the dragon’s tail as well as the wings of the bird. The bodies of the two mythical animals are differentiated: the dragon’s is filled with tight, parallel lines that stress its curvature, while that of the phoenix is polished and simply decorated with pairs of incised lines.
The heads are also finely detailed and vividly express the essence of the two animals: the dragon, with feline-like features, is vigorous and powerful, and the phoenix, gentle and graceful. The lovely celadon coloured jade is translucent, with very few black speckles that are mostly located on the inside of the cut-out areas and where there are small nicks. Examples of Eastern Zhou pendants carved as dragons and phoenixes sharing the same body are in the Harvard Art Museums, accession numbers 1943.50.433/435/447/451/468. They are published in M. Loehr and L.G. Fitzgerald Huber, Ancient Chinese jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge 1975, nos.424-428. Compare also the pendant illustrated in F. Salviati, 4000 Years of Chinese Archaic Jades, Edition Zacke, Vienna 2017, no.257 and the pendant auctioned at Galerie Zacke on 10 March 2018, no.40.
LENGTH 7.5 cm - WIDTH 5.5 cm
Provenance: From an old Austrian collection.
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