This jade is published in Filippo Salviati 4000 YEARS OF CHINESE ARCHAIC JADES Edition Zacke, Vienna 2017, no. 279
龍形玉飾- 西漢早期, 徐州類型, 公元前2世紀
This masterfully crafted jade in the shape of an arched dragon represents a further stage in the development of the dragon imagery during the Eastern Zhou period, when the head of the mythical animal assumed pronounced feline features. The small suspension hole drilled in the head area of the dragon makes it clear that this jade carving was meant to be worn as a pendant. The body of the dragon, strongly bent and terminating in a pointed tail, is decorated with small and interconnected incised spirals, of the type often seen on discs and rings crafted during the Eastern Zhou period. The tight network of spirals which covers the entire body of the dragon was created from a regular grid, designed on the surface of the jade before initiating the carving process. A narrow, plain band following the border of the ornament delimits the area of the surface decorated with the spiralling motifs. The dragon head is finely detailed: the mouth, open to show the fangs, is topped by whiskers made with tiny incised lines, the snout is upturned and terminates in a small volute close to the slanting eye, which is marked by a thick line standing for the eyebrow. A comma-shaped motif decorated with thin, parallel lines suggests a tuft of hair. Just beneath the dragon body and encircled by it there is another dragon, carved in openwork and upside down. Its head is turned towards the back and the sinuous body is enriched with extending volutes which, in the portion of the openwork decoration placed in front of the small dragon, seem to assume the shape of a bird in profile. The jade is mostly of a white, transparent colour, with light brown shades due to the presence of impurities: heavier inclusions are responsible for the black and grey spots near the top border and on the tail.
With the exception of a few details this pendant is very similar to the one published in Zacke Gallery, Archaische und Antike Jaden aus China, May - June 2010, no. 30. Both pieces closely match a similar pendant excavated in 1994 in the princely tombs discovered at Shizhishan, near the city of Xuzhou, Jiangsu province. Images of the excavated pendant are published in the archaeological report, Wenwu, 1998, 8, pp. 4 - 33, fig. 33:6 and no. 2 in the plate illustrating various finds from the tombs. Inscriptions in the tombs date the burials to the early years of the Western Han dynasty: however, in terms of design, concept and workmanship these pendants are a clear continuation of late Eastern Zhou artistic practices into the early decades of the Han dynasty.
Provenance: From an old private Austrian collection