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A Very Fine And Rare White Jade 'Mallow' Marriage Bowl . Qianlong (1736-95)

The bowl carved to the interior and correspondingly to the exterior in the form of an open mallow bloom, the sides carved and pierced with acanthus handles suspending loose rings, supported on four short ruyi-shaped feet, the highly-polished stone of an even white tone with some snowy-white inclusions. 9¼ in. (23.5 cm.) wide, wood stand  - Estimate £150,000 - £200,000 ($242,700 - $323,600)

Provenance: John Sparks Ltd., London, purchased on 31 May 1961

The T.B. Kitson Collection (III), Sotheby's London, 30 May 1961, lot 445

Notes: This elegant 'marriage' bowl shows several influences in its design and is a wonderful example of how the jade carvers at the court developed their decorative repertoires. The basic shape of a bowl with two handles suspending loose rings is very much indigenous and especially popular from the Qing dynasty onwards. It probably derived from the archaic gui shape, which has a circular bowl on a low foot ring and two 'C'-scroll handles, but without the loose rings. However, the current bowl is heavily influenced by Mughal jades, one of Qianlong Emperor's most admired jade specimens. This can be seen on the use of the acanthus motif forming the handles, as well as the layered petal bands covering the whole of the body. The petals themselves are carved with great care, especially on the outer bands, which in some cases turn slightly downwards at the tips with an added naturalism, a feature often seen on Mughal pieces (fig.1). However, on Mughal jade bowls the petals normally emanate from the centre straight, while in the current bowl they are obliquely carved, as if overlapping. This and the use of mallow are all reminiscent of the mallow-form lacquer dishes from the Song dynasty (such as the one in the Nezu Institue of Fine Arts, illustrated in The Colours and Forms of Song and Yuan China, Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo, 2004, no. 20). Another jade bowl in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is also decorated overall with overlapping mallow petals (fig.2). Not only do the oblique petals add movement to the appearance of the current bowl, they also disguise a natural flaw in the stone, a clever solution in turning a problem into an advantage.

Christie's.  A Private English Collection of White Jade Carvings. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art including Export Art. 4 November 2008. London, King Street. Image Christie's Ltd 2008 . www.christies.com