Brushpot. China, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795)/  Brown onyx.  H. 15 cm.  Inv. no. 109. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian © 2008 Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

This onyx brush-holder, carved in high and low relief, is shaped like a tree trunk, while the handle appears as a small twisting stem. The use of animal and plant motifs was a constant in these sophisticated objects. 

Nature was the main source of inspiration for pieces in jade, onyx, chalcedony, lapis lazuli and rock crystal, which all became enormously popular during the reign of the emperor Qianlong, a golden age for jade carving and other precious hardstones. 


Although the intricate shapes and complexity of the decoration on such pieces reveal exceptional craftsmanship, they do rather detract from the natural beauty of the stone. 


Provenance: Bought from Graat and Madoulé, Grentien's sale, December 1923 (cat. no. 164)

BibliographyLisbon 2001
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – Album, Lisbon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 2001, p. 78, no. 56, colourpl. 

Goffen 1995
Rona Goffen (ed.) – Museums discovered: The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1995, pp. 198-199, colourpl.