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A TRANSLUCENT BANDED AGATE BOWL, QING DYNASTY
清代瑪瑙碗

China, 18th-19th century. The deep rounded sides rising from a straight ring foot to a slightly everted rim. The almost transparent stone is brilliantly polished and shows attractive variegated tones of milky gray, caramel, and honey. The base with a neatly incised four-character Yongzheng nianzhi seal mark and possibly of the period.

Provenance: British private collection.
Condition: Excellent condition with minor wear.

Weight: 100.9 g
Dimensions: Diameter 11.2 cm

The agate used for the present bowl is exceptional for both its beautiful coloration and its highly translucent quality. Agate, with rippling layers of color ranging from bright honey to coffee brown, is one of only a few hardstones in ancient China that were valued as much as jade and introduced no later than the Han dynasty. Therefore, the bowl possibly belongs to a group of vessels carved from this material in the Imperial Jade Workshop, yuzuo, within the Imperial Palace Works, Zaobanchu, during the Yongzheng reign and bearing the respective Imperial mark. In any case, it certainly demonstrates the superb craftsmanship achieved almost exclusively by the Imperial Workshops.

The Yongzheng Emperor took a personal interest in the artistic production during his period with a special focus on carved hardstones. Records in the archives of the Imperial Jade Workshops, yuzuo, dated between 1724 and 1729, note that he specifically ordered agate brush washers and bowls to be kept undecorated in order to show the original pattern of the agate stone. Pieces with intricate, cluttered designs or made from stones of unsatisfactory quality were rejected and sent back to the workshops, because only plain, elegant vessels could serve the purpose of showing off the superiority of the stone, while carved designs were literally limited to serve the purpose of hiding natural flaws in the mineral. When comparing the number of agate vessels and jade carvings bearing Yongzheng and Qianlong reign marks, it is evident that the Yongzheng emperor greatly admired the natural virtues of the agate stone, while the Qianlong period saw a much larger output of jade carvings.

Expert’s note: The strictly traditional shape of the present bowl, with its elegantly rounded sides, flared lip and comparatively massive circular foot rim, places it firmly in the 18th century. The exceptional quality of the agate stone and completely undecorated design would make a dating to the Yongzheng period reasonable at the very least. One small detail, however, possibly points to a later date: The inner side of the foot shows a series of irregular grooves from manual lathing, hardly visible to the naked eye. While remnants of such grooves occasionally appear on hardstone carvings from the 18th century and earlier, on an Imperial piece we would expect these to have been eliminated completely by manual polish, even on the inner sides of the foot rim.

Literature comparison: For examples of agate carvings see a group of vessels, some inscribed with Yongzheng reign marks and of the period, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the museum's exhibition Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2009, cat. nos. II-61-70. Compare also a shallow bowl in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages, vol. 11, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 28, and an agate cup and dish, published in Yang Boda, Zhongguo yuqi quanji, Hebei, 2005, pp.553 and 550, nos. 10 and 62. A lobed agate bowl, being offered as a tribute by a high official during the reign of Qianlong, is illustrated in Qingdai gongting shenghuo ('Life in the Forbidden City during the Qing Dynasty'), Hong Kong, 1985, pl. 280; and a set of six cups, from the Musée Guimet, Paris, included in the exhibition Emperor Kangxi and the Sun King Louis XIV, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2011, cat. no. 1A-13. Also compare the shape of the present bowl with a pair of white jade bowls of exactly the same form, dated to the Qianlong period, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Imperial Pursuits: Treasures from the Palace Workshops, on 2 May 2005, lot 555.

Auction result comparison: Compare with a related agate cup with an incised Yongzheng seal mark at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 8 October 2014, lot 3774, sold for HKD 1,060,000, and a lobed agate bowl, of larger size and unmarked, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Art on 3 October 2018, lot 3605, sold for HKD 1,250,000.

清代瑪瑙碗
中國,十八至十九世紀。天然瑪瑙製成,乳白色的底色,飄著焦糖色和蜂蜜色的片狀花斑,間有細密如纏絲的條帶狀紋路。盞身光素,敞口微外撇 ,直圈足,底足刻篆書“雍正年制”兩行款。

來源:英國私人收藏
品相:狀況極好,輕微磨損

重量:100.9 克
尺寸:直徑11.2 厘米

拍賣結果比較:一個相似雍正款瑪瑙碗 售于香港蘇富比Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art 拍場2014年10月 8日,lot 3774, 售價HKD 1,060,000;一件尺寸較大、無落款的瑪瑙碗售于香港蘇富比Important Chinese Art拍場2018年10月3日,lot 3605, 售價HKD 1,250,000。

Sold for €8,540

including Buyer's Premium


 

China, 18th-19th century. The deep rounded sides rising from a straight ring foot to a slightly everted rim. The almost transparent stone is brilliantly polished and shows attractive variegated tones of milky gray, caramel, and honey. The base with a neatly incised four-character Yongzheng nianzhi seal mark and possibly of the period.

Provenance: British private collection.
Condition: Excellent condition with minor wear.

Weight: 100.9 g
Dimensions: Diameter 11.2 cm

The agate used for the present bowl is exceptional for both its beautiful coloration and its highly translucent quality. Agate, with rippling layers of color ranging from bright honey to coffee brown, is one of only a few hardstones in ancient China that were valued as much as jade and introduced no later than the Han dynasty. Therefore, the bowl possibly belongs to a group of vessels carved from this material in the Imperial Jade Workshop, yuzuo, within the Imperial Palace Works, Zaobanchu, during the Yongzheng reign and bearing the respective Imperial mark. In any case, it certainly demonstrates the superb craftsmanship achieved almost exclusively by the Imperial Workshops.

The Yongzheng Emperor took a personal interest in the artistic production during his period with a special focus on carved hardstones. Records in the archives of the Imperial Jade Workshops, yuzuo, dated between 1724 and 1729, note that he specifically ordered agate brush washers and bowls to be kept undecorated in order to show the original pattern of the agate stone. Pieces with intricate, cluttered designs or made from stones of unsatisfactory quality were rejected and sent back to the workshops, because only plain, elegant vessels could serve the purpose of showing off the superiority of the stone, while carved designs were literally limited to serve the purpose of hiding natural flaws in the mineral. When comparing the number of agate vessels and jade carvings bearing Yongzheng and Qianlong reign marks, it is evident that the Yongzheng emperor greatly admired the natural virtues of the agate stone, while the Qianlong period saw a much larger output of jade carvings.

Expert’s note: The strictly traditional shape of the present bowl, with its elegantly rounded sides, flared lip and comparatively massive circular foot rim, places it firmly in the 18th century. The exceptional quality of the agate stone and completely undecorated design would make a dating to the Yongzheng period reasonable at the very least. One small detail, however, possibly points to a later date: The inner side of the foot shows a series of irregular grooves from manual lathing, hardly visible to the naked eye. While remnants of such grooves occasionally appear on hardstone carvings from the 18th century and earlier, on an Imperial piece we would expect these to have been eliminated completely by manual polish, even on the inner sides of the foot rim.

Literature comparison: For examples of agate carvings see a group of vessels, some inscribed with Yongzheng reign marks and of the period, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the museum's exhibition Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2009, cat. nos. II-61-70. Compare also a shallow bowl in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages, vol. 11, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 28, and an agate cup and dish, published in Yang Boda, Zhongguo yuqi quanji, Hebei, 2005, pp.553 and 550, nos. 10 and 62. A lobed agate bowl, being offered as a tribute by a high official during the reign of Qianlong, is illustrated in Qingdai gongting shenghuo ('Life in the Forbidden City during the Qing Dynasty'), Hong Kong, 1985, pl. 280; and a set of six cups, from the Musée Guimet, Paris, included in the exhibition Emperor Kangxi and the Sun King Louis XIV, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2011, cat. no. 1A-13. Also compare the shape of the present bowl with a pair of white jade bowls of exactly the same form, dated to the Qianlong period, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Imperial Pursuits: Treasures from the Palace Workshops, on 2 May 2005, lot 555.

Auction result comparison: Compare with a related agate cup with an incised Yongzheng seal mark at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 8 October 2014, lot 3774, sold for HKD 1,060,000, and a lobed agate bowl, of larger size and unmarked, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Art on 3 October 2018, lot 3605, sold for HKD 1,250,000.

清代瑪瑙碗
中國,十八至十九世紀。天然瑪瑙製成,乳白色的底色,飄著焦糖色和蜂蜜色的片狀花斑,間有細密如纏絲的條帶狀紋路。盞身光素,敞口微外撇 ,直圈足,底足刻篆書“雍正年制”兩行款。

來源:英國私人收藏
品相:狀況極好,輕微磨損

重量:100.9 克
尺寸:直徑11.2 厘米

拍賣結果比較:一個相似雍正款瑪瑙碗 售于香港蘇富比Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art 拍場2014年10月 8日,lot 3774, 售價HKD 1,060,000;一件尺寸較大、無落款的瑪瑙碗售于香港蘇富比Important Chinese Art拍場2018年10月3日,lot 3605, 售價HKD 1,250,000。

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