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A white jade archaistic 'phoenix' flask and cover. Qing dynasty, late 18th /early 19th century

of flattened hu form, the short neck flanked by two phoenix heads with beaks suspending loose rings, their bodies and plumage carved in archaistic style in shallow raised relief, the outstretched wings spreading along the flattened body in swirls and gently arched lines, above a waisted base and short straight foot, the slightly domed cover surmounted by an openwork finial comprising two playful qilin, the stone of even white color throughout with small gray inclusions on the lower body, wood stand (3). height 9 in., 22.9 cm. Estimate: 30,000—40,000 USD

PROVENANCE : Bonhams & Butterfields, May 2002, lot 1310.

Thereafter with the present owner

NOTE :  A jade vase and cover attributed to the Qianlong period, almost identical in form and color to the present example, but slightly shorter and with subtle variations in the archaistic detailing, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 20th May 1981, lot 887.

The phoenix, the empress among all birds, symbolizes the sun, good luck, abundance and longevity. It ranks among the second of the four mythical animals, below the dragon and above qilin and tortoise. For examples of Qing dynasty jades featuring the phoenix motif, see an archaistic white jade vase, attributed to the 18th century, formerly in the private collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 28th November 2006, lot 1385. See also an early 18th century white jade rhyton carved with a recumbent phoenix, sold in these rooms, 17th October 2001, lot 72.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art including Chinese and Japanese Art from The Collection of Frieda and Milton Rosenthal. 16 Sep 08. www.sotheby's.com