This jade is published in Filippo Salviati 4000 YEARS OF CHINESE ARCHAIC JADES Edition Zacke, Vienna 2017, no. 257
龍鳳形玉佩- 東周, 战国, 公元前4世紀-前3世紀
This small pendant is basically shaped as a dragon in profile with a phoenix head emerging from its body: however, when examined closely, a far more subtle composition is revealed. The image should in fact be read as that of a dragon and a phoenix sharing a same body, as if the carver wanted to melt together the images of these two mythical animals which are often represented together in jade pendants of the Eastern Zhou period. The body of the dragon is carved in an elongated and sinuous shaped plastic pose. The head is turned towards the back from which a carved, upside down phoenix head looking in the direction of the dragon protrudes. In this way, from whichever side the pendant it is looked at, one or the other of the animal’s heads remains clearly discernible. Besides the protuberance which emerges from the back of the dragon head, representing the long ear of the animal, there are four other small appendages carved along the outline of the pendant. Counting from the dragon’s head, the first two, one positioned below the neck and the other under the lower jaw of the animal, appear to be the dragon’s claws. The third appendage, slightly longer and differently detailed than the other, stands instead for the phoenix’s foot (or feet, assuming that in profile view only one is visible). Finally, the fourth element, slightly protruding from the outline of the pendant, looks like a small wing, an interpretation reinforced by the fact that it is positioned near the phoenix’s head. The bodies of the two animals are then totally covered with fat “V”- shaped curls which look like stylized hearts, a decoration comprised between the two narrow, plain strips running along the entire contour of the pendant. This was probably suspended through one of the two holes which are drilled near the front paw of the dragon and right in the neck of the phoenix. The position of the holes suggests that the pendant was probably suspended vertically from one of the holes, likely that of the dragon, while other small jades were hung from the other, though this is only a tentative explanation to explain an oddity not often seen on pendants of this type. When held against a source of light, the jade looks transparent and of a yellowish colour. Surface alteration has affected various areas of the pendant, parts of which retain traces of soil and possibly metal encrustations: it also seems that there are impressions of fabric left on the protuberance below the dragon’s neck. A dragon pendant decorated with the same “C”-shaped curls is illustrated in Rawson, “Chinese Jade”, no. 17:11. Another comparable example is in the collections of the Harvard Art Museums and published in Loehr, “Ancient Chinese Jades”, no. 424.
Provenance: From a Viennese collection