A fine and rare inscribed carved White and Russet Jade Boulder. Mark and period of Qianlong, dated to 1764. Photo Sotheby's
finely and deeply carved to the front face depicting Guanyin seated on a rockwork pedestal, wearing loosely draped robes, an attendant standing behind her holding a vase containing a single willow branch, with a boy kneeling towards her in a position of deference, amid bamboo trees, with swelling waves crashing against the rocks below, a magpie perched above, round and smooth the reverse side skilfully carved utilising the natural inclusions in the stone, neatly incised to the centre with a six-column poem in kaishu, ending with the seven-character mark Qianlong jiashen xia yu zan ('appraised by the Qianlong emperor in the summer of 1764'), followed by two seals, the stone of a pale celadon-white tone, with attractive warm russet inclusions on the reverse, later wood stand; 16 cm., 6 1/4 in. Estimate 1,500,000—2,500,000 HKD. Lot Sold 7,220,000 HKD
PROVENANCE: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 16th November 1983, lot 383.
NOTE: The inscription comes from Qing Gao Zong yuzhi shi wen quanji, yuzhi wen er ji (Anthology of Imperial Qianlong Writings), juan 41, p. 5, and can be translated as follows:
By river sands working ever constantly
All crudity is thus worn entirely away,
But the Buddha-land is harder to fully realize
For she can't help but respond when cries are heard,
And since even Sudhana kowtows,
What numinous power she must have!
Sitting in meditation hands on knees
Mind broad as the sea, empty as the sky,
On a lotus blossom made of polished jade
Each and every petal clearly defined.
Those old fellows inside their oranges
Could have taken their cue from this.
At one with the people in all their grief,
And with the Buddha in complete compassion,
Identifying perfectly with those above and below,
Ever unceasing and ever unconditioned.
The present carving is unusual for its depiction of the figure of Guanyin and the three oval-section shape, and no other example appears to have been depicted. The proficiency of the carver is revealed in the clever way in which the natural shape and russet skin colour of the stone have been manipulated to create an intimate enclosure that exudes a sense of calm befitting to Guanyin.
Jade carvings depicting figures in naturalistic settings and modelled in the round with elaborate detail were particularly popular with the Qianlong emperor who was a keen collector of jade artefacts. All jade pieces in his collection were carefully chosen or commissioned by him, and only those that were of particular significance were endowed with his inscription or appraisal. Such carvings would have been housed in the Palace for his enjoyment and appreciation.
For carvings of figures in oval-shaped grottos, see one enclosing a figure of the Buddha sold in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 414; and another depicting Damo, inscribed with an Imperial poem and dated to 1772, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1st May 1995, lot 801.
Sotheby's. Vestiges from China's Imperial History, 08 Apr 11 11:00 AM, Hong Kong www.sothebys.com