Fri, 15th Oct 2021 10:00

TWO-DAY AUCTION - Fine Chinese Art / 中國藝術集珍 / Buddhism & Hinduism

 
  Lot 47
 

47

AN IMPERIAL LAPIS LAZULI FIGURE OF A BEAR, QIANLONG PERIOD
乾隆時期御制青金石熊形擺件

China, 1736-1795. Superbly carved in the round as a bear standing foursquare in an alert position with the head facing forward, the beast realistically portrayed with taut muscles and prominent spinal column terminating in a short tail swept to one side. The small funnel-form ears pricked, the face framed by neatly incised lines simulating fur, the pierced mouth opened to reveal sharp fangs.

Provenance: French private collection.
Condition: Very good condition with minor wear, the ears with small chips and one old fill, minor losses to paws, the stone with natural fissures, some of which may have developed into small hairline cracks over time and possibly show old fills.

Weight: 1,242 g
Dimensions: Length 16.2 cm, Height 12.3 cm

The eyes are finely inlaid in amber, their backsides hollowed and the black pupil either painted inside or more likely additionally inlaid in dark horn, the pupils appearing to follow the viewer from all angles. The manually polished stone is of an intense, deep blue color with ivory white shadings, gray patches and gold flecks, all masterfully utilized by the master lapidary to make the beast appear as a polar bear.

Bears were, from the Western Han dynasty onwards, represented in bronze both as free-standing sculptures and as highly decorative parts of larger ritual vessels. These free-standing sculptures of bears are likely to have been made in sets of four, used as opulent mat weights. Examples include two near-identical gilt-bronze bears, the first from the collection of Senator Hugh Scott, Washington, included in the exhibition Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Gilt Bronzes from the Wessen and Other Collections, Eskenazi Ltd, London, 1980, cat. no. 22, the second from the collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, sold at Christie’s New York, 17th March 2015, lot 1.

The use of a bear as a design element, in one of the feet that supports an elaborate Han vessel, can be seen on an inlaid gilt-bronze vessel in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth, Chinese Jades through the Ages, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2011, cat. no. 7-3-10. The shape of the vessel is highly dynamic, showing the bear poised, bristling with energy, holding a ball in one hand. It was so admired by the Qianlong Emperor that he personally ordered an exact copy to be made in wood and sent to Suzhou as a model for a jade copy. The successful jade zun vessel, of superlative quality and very close to the bronze prototype, is now also in the National Palace Museum, illustrated ibidem, cat. no. 7-3-9.

Lapis lazuli was highly prized during the Qianlong period, as evidenced by a pair of Qianlong period stone lions dyed to imitate the stone, included in the exhibition Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. Nos. 71 and 72, and a Qianlong period lapis lazuli mountain in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated in Michael Knight, He Li and Terese Tse Bartholomew, Chinese Jades, San Francisco, 2007, plate 354.

Expert’s note: The extravagant use of this highly precious material, carved in a consciously naturalistic style, clearly indicates the present bear is a unique work of the Qianlong period, created in the Palace Workshops for the pleasure of the Emperor and his entourage. The exceptional manual polish with its unique unctuous feel and lustrous shine as well as the fine inlay technique further underpin this fact. While common wisdom dictates that the Imperial workshops only used the purest materials, it would take the most accomplished of all master lapidaries to create such a splendidly vivid carving which utilizes all the present natural inclusions and shadings of the stone in such a breathtaking manner – or in short: one of the most impressive Chinese animal sculptures this author has ever seen.

Auction result comparison: Compare a related lapis lazuli water buffalo, dated to the 18th century, of only slightly larger size (20.5 cm long), at Christie’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 26 November 2014, sold for HKD 600,000, and a related lapis lazuli Buddha, also dated to the Qianlong period, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Art on 20 March 2019, lot 547, sold for USD 150,000.

乾隆時期御制青金石熊形擺件
中國,1736-1795年。青金石雕刻的熊四脚着地,形象生動逼真,頭部向前伸,肌肉緊綳,背部微聳,尾巴掃向一側。 漏斗狀的小耳朵豎了起來,毛髮勾勒纖細,大嘴張開,露出鋒利的獠牙。

來源:法國私人收藏。
品相:狀況極好,輕微磨損,耳朵部位有小磕損和舊時填充物,爪子有輕微損失。石料有天然紋理,隨著時間的推移,其中一些可能會發展成細小的裂縫,並顯示可能存在舊時填充物。

重量:1,242 克
尺寸:長 16.2 厘米, 高12.3 厘米

專家注釋:這種極為珍貴的材料,被如此奢侈使用,自然主義風格雕刻手法,清楚地表明這只熊是乾隆時期的御制品。卓越的手工拋光及其獨特的潤滑感和光澤,以及精細的鑲嵌技術進一步確認了這一事實。雖然一般都認爲御用工坊只使用最純淨的材料,但需要技術最為高超的大師才能創作出如此生動的雕刻作品,巧妙利用石料天然内沁和陰影。這是筆者見過的最令人印象深刻的中國動物造像之一。

拍賣結果比較:一件十八世紀尺寸稍大的青金石水牛 (高20.5 厘米) ,見香港佳士得 Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art 2014年11月26日 售價HKD 600,000;一件乾隆時期青金石佛像,見香港蘇富比 Important Chinese Art 2019年3月20日 lot 547, 售價USD 150,000

Sold for €9,480

including Buyer's Premium


 

China, 1736-1795. Superbly carved in the round as a bear standing foursquare in an alert position with the head facing forward, the beast realistically portrayed with taut muscles and prominent spinal column terminating in a short tail swept to one side. The small funnel-form ears pricked, the face framed by neatly incised lines simulating fur, the pierced mouth opened to reveal sharp fangs.

Provenance: French private collection.
Condition: Very good condition with minor wear, the ears with small chips and one old fill, minor losses to paws, the stone with natural fissures, some of which may have developed into small hairline cracks over time and possibly show old fills.

Weight: 1,242 g
Dimensions: Length 16.2 cm, Height 12.3 cm

The eyes are finely inlaid in amber, their backsides hollowed and the black pupil either painted inside or more likely additionally inlaid in dark horn, the pupils appearing to follow the viewer from all angles. The manually polished stone is of an intense, deep blue color with ivory white shadings, gray patches and gold flecks, all masterfully utilized by the master lapidary to make the beast appear as a polar bear.

Bears were, from the Western Han dynasty onwards, represented in bronze both as free-standing sculptures and as highly decorative parts of larger ritual vessels. These free-standing sculptures of bears are likely to have been made in sets of four, used as opulent mat weights. Examples include two near-identical gilt-bronze bears, the first from the collection of Senator Hugh Scott, Washington, included in the exhibition Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Gilt Bronzes from the Wessen and Other Collections, Eskenazi Ltd, London, 1980, cat. no. 22, the second from the collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, sold at Christie’s New York, 17th March 2015, lot 1.

The use of a bear as a design element, in one of the feet that supports an elaborate Han vessel, can be seen on an inlaid gilt-bronze vessel in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth, Chinese Jades through the Ages, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2011, cat. no. 7-3-10. The shape of the vessel is highly dynamic, showing the bear poised, bristling with energy, holding a ball in one hand. It was so admired by the Qianlong Emperor that he personally ordered an exact copy to be made in wood and sent to Suzhou as a model for a jade copy. The successful jade zun vessel, of superlative quality and very close to the bronze prototype, is now also in the National Palace Museum, illustrated ibidem, cat. no. 7-3-9.

Lapis lazuli was highly prized during the Qianlong period, as evidenced by a pair of Qianlong period stone lions dyed to imitate the stone, included in the exhibition Tributes from Guangdong to the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1987, cat. Nos. 71 and 72, and a Qianlong period lapis lazuli mountain in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated in Michael Knight, He Li and Terese Tse Bartholomew, Chinese Jades, San Francisco, 2007, plate 354.

Expert’s note: The extravagant use of this highly precious material, carved in a consciously naturalistic style, clearly indicates the present bear is a unique work of the Qianlong period, created in the Palace Workshops for the pleasure of the Emperor and his entourage. The exceptional manual polish with its unique unctuous feel and lustrous shine as well as the fine inlay technique further underpin this fact. While common wisdom dictates that the Imperial workshops only used the purest materials, it would take the most accomplished of all master lapidaries to create such a splendidly vivid carving which utilizes all the present natural inclusions and shadings of the stone in such a breathtaking manner – or in short: one of the most impressive Chinese animal sculptures this author has ever seen.

Auction result comparison: Compare a related lapis lazuli water buffalo, dated to the 18th century, of only slightly larger size (20.5 cm long), at Christie’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art on 26 November 2014, sold for HKD 600,000, and a related lapis lazuli Buddha, also dated to the Qianlong period, at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Art on 20 March 2019, lot 547, sold for USD 150,000.

乾隆時期御制青金石熊形擺件
中國,1736-1795年。青金石雕刻的熊四脚着地,形象生動逼真,頭部向前伸,肌肉緊綳,背部微聳,尾巴掃向一側。 漏斗狀的小耳朵豎了起來,毛髮勾勒纖細,大嘴張開,露出鋒利的獠牙。

來源:法國私人收藏。
品相:狀況極好,輕微磨損,耳朵部位有小磕損和舊時填充物,爪子有輕微損失。石料有天然紋理,隨著時間的推移,其中一些可能會發展成細小的裂縫,並顯示可能存在舊時填充物。

重量:1,242 克
尺寸:長 16.2 厘米, 高12.3 厘米

專家注釋:這種極為珍貴的材料,被如此奢侈使用,自然主義風格雕刻手法,清楚地表明這只熊是乾隆時期的御制品。卓越的手工拋光及其獨特的潤滑感和光澤,以及精細的鑲嵌技術進一步確認了這一事實。雖然一般都認爲御用工坊只使用最純淨的材料,但需要技術最為高超的大師才能創作出如此生動的雕刻作品,巧妙利用石料天然内沁和陰影。這是筆者見過的最令人印象深刻的中國動物造像之一。

拍賣結果比較:一件十八世紀尺寸稍大的青金石水牛 (高20.5 厘米) ,見香港佳士得 Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art 2014年11月26日 售價HKD 600,000;一件乾隆時期青金石佛像,見香港蘇富比 Important Chinese Art 2019年3月20日 lot 547, 售價USD 150,000

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