This is another wonderful example of a Han dynasty sword pommel, but here the top is carved with the motif of a dragon and a phoenix in relief that swirl around the central opening. The dragon has a four-limbed long body that literally disappears into the jade and re-surfaces at two different points of the pommel. It has very long, twisting horns and an equally elongated, curled tail embellished with fine grooves. The phoenix occupies only onethird of the space and is represented in profile: it has a beaked head, a long crest and the thin body terminates in a trifurcated tail. The back is flat and simply decorated with repeated patterns of circles, curls and etched areas regularly organized over the surface. The jade is of a beautiful light green colour, but also heavily mottled with many light brown, dark brown and white areas with some surface calcification.
For a jade pommel with a similar sculptural decoration of dragons on top and a stylized bird in profile carved at the bottom, see F. Salviati, 4000 Years of Chinese Archaic Jades, Edition Zacke, Vienna 2017, no.319.
From an Austrian collection
All jades in this catalogue have been professionally examined, authenticated and described by Prof. Filippo Salviati. Professor Salviati teaches Chinese and Korean art at Sapienza University in Rome, in the Italian Institute of Oriental Studies. He is a world expert on archaic Chinese jades, having released multiple publications and being cited by renowned auction houses such as Sotheby’s. The microscopic images made available here, show that the weathering of the jade has occurred over a long period of time. Furthermore in the magnification one can reconstruct the workings of the jade. The two aforementioned criteria are exactly what counts in the authentication of archaic jades – the difficult and elaborate workmanship by hand and the subsequent weathering of the jade over centuries. The microscopic enlargements show how the patterns were ground out in many small steps, sometimes over months, and that the weathering actually occurs above the carvings, meaning it occurred after the jade was completed.