A magnificent Imperial Ru-type 'Eight Trigrams' moonflask, bianhu, Qianlong seal mark and of the period. Estimate: HK$ 3.5 million - 5 million (€410,000 - 590,000) & An exceptionally rare Imperial flambé-glazed 'Eight Trigrams' moonflask, bianhu, Yongzheng seal mark and of the period. Estimate: HK$ 3.5 million - 5 million (€410,000 - 590,000). Photo Bonhams.
HONG KONG.- The exceptional collection of Chinese art was carefully assembled between the 1950s and the 1970s under the guidance of William Wilberforce Winkworth (1897 – 1991). It will be offered at Bonhams Hong Kong on 3 December 2015.
One of the most erudite Asian art specialists in Britain, Winkworth was arguably the greatest collector of Chinese and Japanese works of art of his time.
The son of Stephen D. Winkworth (d.1938), one of the founding members of the Oriental Ceramics Society, William Winkworth worked at the British Museum from 1922 – 1926.
Winkworth advised the owner on buying from some of the most renowned Chinese art dealers in London of the day, including Spink & Son, Sydney L. Moss, Alfred Speelman and Douglas J.K. Wright.
One of the finest and rarest of the Imperial porcelain on offer is an exceptionally rare flambé-glazed moonflask, Yongzheng seal mark and of the period (1723-1735), estimated at HK$ 3,500,000 – 5,000,000. In its form and glaze it demonstrates the Emperor’s fascination with archaic shapes and glazes, with the latter inspired by the Song Dynasty jun glaze; in its decoration of the Eight Trigrams and Yinyang motif it reflects captivation with Daoism, as the Emperor was known for partaking in Daoist longevity practices.
Lot 1. An exceptionally rare Imperial flambé-glazed 'Eight Trigrams' moonflask, bianhu, Yongzheng seal mark and of the period (1723-1735); 34.5cm (13 5/8in) high. Estimate HK$ 3,500,000-5,000,000 (€410,000 - 590,000). Sold for HK$ 4,240,000 (€ 503,754). Photo Bonhams.
Exquisitely modelled after a Middle Eastern metalwork prototype with a flattened spherical body supported on a spreading foot, surmounted by a cylindrical neck with a raised rib flanked by a pair of archaistic animal scroll handles, adorned on each side with the Eight Trigrams radiating from a yinyang roundel at the centre, the narrow sides with raised bosses, covered overall in a brilliant glaze of vibrant purplish-red tones, streaked with cascades of milky blue striations, the underside in a mottled yellowish-brown wash covering the incised four-character seal mark.
Provenance: Acquired from Sydney L. Moss, Ltd., London, on 17 July 1970, and thence by descent
An important European private collection
Note: Flambé-glazed vessels, inspired by the Song dynasty jun glaze, were produced in a range of shapes during the Yongzheng reign; however, whilst there are several extant examples similarly decorated with the Eight Trigrams andyinyang design, produced in guan and ge-type glazes, no other examples of the same form, design and jun-type glaze appear to have been published, underlining the exceptional rarity of the present vase.
The vase encapsulates two important aspects personal to the Yongzheng emperor: his fascination with archaism in form and decoration, innovatively re-interpreted and reproduced; and his attraction and partaking in Daoist longevity practices.
The first aspect of antiquity-inspired form and design, re-interpreted, is demonstrated in the flask in its shape and glaze. In form, the vase is inspired by an early Ming dynasty design which itself was based on an Islamic metal prototype; see J.A.Pope, 'An Early Ming Porcelain in Muslim Style', in R.Ettinghausen, ed., Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst, Festschrift für Ernst Kühnel, Berlin, 1959, pp.357-375. The flambé glaze, also known as yaobian, means furnace transmutation or changing of colour in the kiln, which is well exemplified in the present lot with the brilliant variegated glaze suffused with blue streaks. The inspiration for the flambé glaze can be traced back to the earlier jun wares of the Song dynasty. The copper glaze used when firing jun wares was particularly unstable and difficult to control, resulting in a high failure rate during the firing. However, the extraordinary technical mastery developed during the Yongzheng period allowed for the successful production of flambé-glazed porcelain.
The Yongzheng emperor's great admiration for the jun glaze is well documented: in the third and sixth years of his reign (1725 and 1728 respectively), the emperor instructed that all the jun wares in the palace be identified, leading to the re-introduction of the glaze to the repertoire produced in the imperial kilns. Tang Ying, the supervisor of the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, is recorded in 1729 to have sent his secretary, Wu Yaopu, to Junzhou in Henan to investigate the composition of the jun glaze, and had later successfully arrived at a significantly different glaze formula used for jun-type vessels made under the order of the Yongzheng emperor, see Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, Taipei, 2009, pp.227-228.
The second aspect, representing the Yongzheng emperor's admiration of Daoism, is demonstrated in the Eight Trigrams and yinyang design. The trigrams, bagua - Qian, Kun, Zhen, Xun, Kan, Li, Gen and Dui, representing heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain and marsh respectively - provided the means of assessing the present state of the world and a basis for decision-making for the future - both of great bearing to the emperor.
For related examples, but of larger size, of guan and ge-type glazed 'Eight Trigrams' moonflasks, Yongzheng seal marks and period, see one imitating ge glaze from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, museum no.ZC003964N; and another imitating guan glaze sold at Sotheby's London, 8 November 2006, lot 173. See also a related flambé-glazed moonflask, Yongzheng seal mark and period - but without the Eight Trigrams design - illustrated by R.Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol.IV, part II, London, 1994-2010, no.835.
A magnificent and large moonflask, Qianlong seal mark and of the period (1736-1795), estimated at HK$5,000,000 – 8,000,000, is a direct continuation of the previous reign. It is similar in form and design, but differs in its inspiration of the remarkable Song Dynasty Imperial ru glaze. Standing 50cm high it epitomizes the technical zenith achieved by the potters working at the Imperial kilns in Jingdezhen during the Qianlong reign.
Lot 7. A magnificent Imperial Ru-type 'Eight Trigrams' moonflask, bianhu, Qianlong seal mark and of the period. Estimate: HK$ 3.5 million - 5 million (€410,000 - 590,000). Unsold. Photo Bonhams.
Superbly potted with a flattened circular body rising elegantly from a short splayed foot to a cylindrical neck collared with a raised ring and a lipped rim flanked by a pair of archaistic scroll handles, moulded in high relief on each side with a central domed medallion enclosing ayinyang motif, encircled by the Eight Trigrams, ba gua, the sides decorated with raised bosses, covered overall in an attractive and unctuous bluish-green glaze with a network of fine crackles. 51.5cm (20 1/4in) high
Provenance: An important European private collection
Notes: The present vase is exceedingly rare and no other example from the Qianlong reign period appears to have been published.
A tour-de-force of craftsmanship, it is an exceptional example of the technical zenith achieved by potters working at the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen during the celebrated Qianlong period. The imposing size and rare glaze would have presented multiple challenges: the first of balancing the weight of the porcelain; the second, of successfully imitating the prized Northern Song dynasty imperial ru glaze with its bluish tinge and fine craquelure - both would have been affected by the kiln temperature and control of its firing conditions, requiring the most exacting standards to accomplish this ambitious feat.
In form, the monumental moonflask is inspired by an early Ming dynasty design, which in turn drew on an Islamic metal prototype; see J.A.Pope, 'An Early Ming Porcelain in Muslim Style', in R.Ettinghausen, ed., Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst, Festschrift für Ernst Kühnel, Berlin, 1959, pp.357-375. In glaze, the flask imitates the rarest of the 'five great wares' of the Song dynasty, the ru glaze, used on wares made for the imperial court during the Northern Song dynasty. In design, the Eight Trigrams, bagua, introduces a religious dimension of Daoism, whereby the trigrams - Qian, Kun, Zhen, Xun, Kan, Li, Gen and Dui, which stand for heaven, earth, thunder, wind, water, fire, mountain and marsh respectively - provided the means of assessing the present state of the world and a basis for decision-making for the future - both of great bearing to the emperor.
The vase, although based on earlier prototypes in form, glaze and decoration, is a direct continuation of the previous Yongzheng reign; compare the rare flambé-glazed 'Eight Trigrams' moonflask, Yongzheng seal mark and period, offered in this sale, (above), imitating jun glaze; see also a celadon glazed 'Eight Trigrams' moonflask, Yongzheng seal mark and period, illustrated in The Prime Cultural Relics Collected by Shenyang Imperial Palace Museum: The Chinaware Volume, vol.II, Liaoyang, 2008, p.61; and a third Yongzheng seal mark and period 'Eight Trigrams' imitatingge glaze is from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, museum no.ZC003964N.
The Daoist design of the present vase is a manifestation of the Yongzheng emperor's known attraction to Daoist longevity practices, which included indulging in consumption of lead-based 'elixirs of life'. The imperial court provided patronage to the White Cloud Monastery in Beijing, and elaborate Daoist celebrations were also regularly staged around the Qianlong emperor's birthdays. The grandest of Daoist rituals, the jiao rite of communal renewal, also received imperial support. However, the Yongzheng emperor's immersion in Daoist practices was an exception, as most of the Qing emperors followed Buddhism alongside Confucian rituals of the state. See P.Berger, 'Religion', in E.S.Rawski and J.Rawson, eds., China: The Three Emperors 1662 - 1795, London, 2005, pp.132-133.
The remarkable collection, one of few remaining in Europe in private hands of such quality, also includes other Imperial porcelain as well as masterpieces of soapstone and rhinoceros horn carvings, dated to the 17th and 18th centuries, by the masters Zixiu and Hu Xingyue.
Lot 11. A very rare archaistic rhinoceros horn libation cup, by Hu Xingyue, incised four-character mark, 17th-18th century; 12.8cm (5in) high. Estimate HK$ 500,000 - 700,000 (€59,000 - 82,000). Sold for HK$ 1,240,000 (€ 147,324). Photo Bonhams.
The slender body masterfully carved in the form of an archaistic bronze wine gu vessel, the flaring trumpet neck decorated with four upright triangular blades filled with archaistic dragons divided by four notched flanges, the middle section with intricate leiwen, the splayed foot with pendent plantain leaves centred by cicadas, the austere form interrupted by five playful chilong carved in reticulated high relief, nimbly clambering on the handle and peering over the rim, with a further one on the front, and a smaller chilong situated inside the smoothly-carved interior, the base with a four-character seal mark of the artist Hu Xingyue Zhi ('Made by Hu Xingyue') within a square of reddish chestnut colour with a dark brown foot, the material of a rich amber tone darkening to a walnut tone at the core.
Provenance: An important European private collection
Note: The exceptional rhinoceros horn libation cup is finely carved in zhuanshu script with the seal of the master carver Hu Xingyue. To date, a very limited number of rhinoceros horn libation cups bearing this mark have come to light, numbering approximately 12-13 cups, the majority of which are in important museum collections. The present libation cup has hitherto been unknown and unpublished, adding to the number of known cups by Hu Xingyue, which are as detailed below:
Museum collections (six to seven):
Palace Museum, Beijing - one - from the Qing Court collection, dated late Ming dynasty, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, pl.134;
Victoria and Albert Museum, London - one - museum no.782-1903, dated to circa 1650-1700;
Aberdeen Art Gallery - two;
Museum voor Volkenkunde, Rotterdam - one - illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, p.129, pl.134;
Minneapolis Institute of Arts - one to two;
Private collections (six):
See T.Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, pl.27 and pl.41 (pl.41 later sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 October 2010, lot 2220);
Two others sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, one on 23 October 2005, lot 114, and the other on 9 October 2012, lot 3057;
One sold at Sotheby's New York, 19 March 2013, lot 360;
See also Sydney L. Moss, Ltd., Escape from the Dusty Word: Chinese Paintings and Literati Works of Art, London, 1999, no.71.
The present cup is an imaginative tour-de-force, exhibiting masterful carving, with the sinuous chilong clambering atop the cup, carved in high relief in striking contrast to the archaistic low relief carving on the exterior. This prized possession would have delighted the person admiring the cup with a further unexpected pleasure in the form of the remarkable high relief carved dragon writhing in the centre of the cup, requiring great technical skill to accomplish this astonishing feat of carving.
Lot 12. A rare soapstone figure of the luohan Ajita, by Zixiu, incised two-character mark, 17th century; 12cm (4 3/4in) high. Estimate HK$ 500,000 - 700,000 (€59,000 - 82,000). Sold for HK$ 1,000,000 (€ 118,809). Photo Bonhams.
The luohan exquisitely and naturalistically carved, seated cross-legged on a flat woven straw mat with a contemplative face modelled with long pendulous ears and elaborately curled moustache, wearing long flowing robes open at the chest, incised at the hems with foliate borders adorned with turquoise inlays, the stone of an attractive variegated colour ranging from beige to dark honey tone, the two-character mark carved on the back.
Provenance: An important European private collection
Note: The rare and masterly carved 'furong' figure of Ajita, one of the sixteen arhats (a group which later expanded into the Eighteen Arhats or Luohans), is signed by Zixiu. It is one of the most accomplished works by Zixiu, demonstrating his exceptional creative and technical skills, resulting in the extraordinarily sensitive and exquisite naturalistic figural carving, equalling works by the other known soapstone master carvers, Zhou Bin and Yang Yuxuan.
The signature of the carver Zixiu appears on a small number of exceptional soapstone figural carvings. However, little is known about him. It is possible that Zixiu is an 'art name' for one of several carvers who are recorded in literature but whose signatures do not seem to appear on works of art. It is also possible that he did not carve seal texts and therefore did not attract the attention of the literati to the same extent as Zhou and Yang: see G.Tsang and H.Moss in Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, p.160, no.135.
Ajita is characteristically depicted with his head covered, absorbed in meditation, the hands clasped in a meditativemudra, as can be seen in a Tibetan thangka of Shakyamuni Buddha with the sixteen arhats, 18th century, from the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Himalayan Art Resources-himalayanart.org/items/470.
Below are other recorded soapstone figural carvings by Zixiu:
1. A soapstone figure of a luohan, by Zixiu, 17th century, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 October 2010, lot 2209;
2. A soapstone figure of a seated luohan, by Zixiu, early Qing dynasty, sold in these rooms, The Q Collection: Exquisite Soapstones, 25 May 2011, lot 261;
3. A soapstone group of a reclining luohan and lion, by Zixiu, early Qing dynasty, sold in these rooms, The Q Collection: Exquisite Soapstones, 25 May 2011, lot 205;
4. A soapstone figure of Pindola and lion, by Zixiu, 17th century, illustrated by G.Tsang and H.Moss, ibid., pp.160-161, no.135;
5. A soapstone figure of a luohan, by Zixiu, 17th century, illustrated G.Tsang and H.Moss, ibid., pp.162-163, no.136;
6. A soapstone figure of Avalokitesvara, by Zixiu, 17th century, illustrated by Sydney L. Moss, Ltd., Between Heaven and Earth: Secular and Divine Figural Images in Chinese Paintings and Objects, London, 1988, no.61;
7. A soapstone figure of Dongfang Shuo, by Zixiu, formerly in the Marcel Lorber collection, London, and the Mary and George Bloch collection, Hong Kong, illustrated by Sydney L. Moss, Ltd., ibid., London, 1988, no.62;
8. A soapstone figure of Budai, by Zixiu, 17th century, formerly in the collection of Patrick Huth Jackson, illustrated by Maria Kiang, Objects from the Scholar's Desk, Hong Kong, 2009, pp.54-55, no.19.
9. A soapstone figure of a luohan, by Zixiu, 17th century, from the collection of King Gustav VI, in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, illustrated by J.Wirgin, Från Kina till Europa : kinesiska konstföremål från de Ostindiska Kompaniernas tid, Stockholm, 1998, pl.18.
“This unique collection is a vestige of bygone days of Western collecting of Chinese art,” said Asaph Hyman, Bonhams International Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art.
“It has been ‘lived with’ and highly admired on a daily basis for many decades. We are privileged to offer these magnificent objects for sale.”
Lot 6. A very rare Imperial celadon and copper-red glazed 'chilong' vase, zun, Qianlong seal mark and of the period. Estimate: HK$ 2.4 million - 3.4 million (€280,000 - 400,000). Amended. Photo Bonhams.
Superbly potted in the form of a horse hoof with an elegantly rounded body tapering to a straight short neck, the shoulder applied and painted in underglaze-red with an intricately modelled sinuous chilong with a curled bifurcated tail clambering up the neck, covered overall in a smooth and even unctuous celadon green glaze, thinning to a paler tone at the rim. 15.5cm (6 1/8in) high
Provenance: Acquired from Douglas J. K. Wright, London, on 21 June 1967, and thence by descent
An important European private collection
Notes: The complex decoration on the present lot, employing both a fine celadon glaze and high-relief applied decoration of an animated chilong in underglaze copper-red, is strikingly sophisticated yet still successfully conveys a sense of elegance, reflecting the zenith of craftsmanship achieved during the Qianlong reign.
The form, based on the 'horse hoof' shape, although at times described as fish-basket shape, was largely introduced during the Yongzheng period, although its roots can be traced back to the Kangxi period; see Geng Baochang, Ming Qing ciqi jianding [Appraisal of Ming and Qing porcelain], Hong Kong, 1993, p.192, figs.3 and 7. For Yongzheng examples of similar form with a chilong in relief around the body, but in flambé glaze, Yongzheng seal mark and period, from the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Gu gong bo wu yuan cang qing dai yu yao ci qi, vol.1, part 2, Beijing, 2005, p.304, pl.138, and Selected Porcelain of the Flourishing Qing Dynasty at the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1994, p.228, pl.75.
Compare a similar example in celadon and copper-red glaze, Qianlong seal mark and period, from the Pingxiang Museum, Jiangxi, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Porcelain of Jiangxi Province: Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty (I), Beijing, 2005, p.167. See also a coral ground and gilt 'chilong' zun, Qianlong seal mark and period, illustrated by the Oriental Ceramic Society and the Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, in the exhibition catalogue Ch'ing Polychrome Porcelain, Hong Kong, 1977, p.57, pl.87.
Lot 3. A very rare pair of iron-red and green-enamelled ovoid jars, Yongzheng six-character marks and of the period;18.5cm (7 1/4in) high. Estimate HK$ 2.4 million - 3.4 million (€280,000 - 400,000). Unsold. Photo Bonhams.
Each jar finely potted with broad shoulders surmounted by a short upright neck, deftly and meticulously enamelled in rich and vivid iron-red tones depicting two front-facing and four further striding four-clawed dragons writhing with undulating scaly bodies and outstretched limbs amidst scattered flames above a turbulent sea of green-enamelled swirling waves (2).
Provenance: Acquired from Alfred Speelman, London, on 6 June 1968, and thence by descent
An important European private collection
Notes: The present pair of iron-red and green-enamelled 'dragon' jars, Yongzheng marks and period, is exceedingly rare and only a single example, from the Palace Museum, Beijing, appears to have been published; seeThe Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Miscellaneous Enamelled Porcelains Plain Tricoloured Porcelains, Shanghai, 2009, pl.253.
The decoration on the present jars was inspired by Chenghua period design, but more closely, is a direct continuation of the Kangxi period, as demonstrated in the design of dragons on an iron-red cup and saucer, Kangxi, illustrated inCeramics Gallery of the Palace Museum: Part II, Beijing, 2010, pl.320. The similarity to the Kangxi example and indeed the colour scheme, indicate an early Yongzheng period for the present lot. However, whilst probably near in date to the Kangxi period, the refined quality characteristic of Yongzheng period porcelains is apparent, both in the quality of the potting and the meticulous and delicate enamelling.
Lot 2. A reserved-decorated blue-ground 'floral' dish, Yongzheng six-character mark and of the period (1723-1735);33.5cm (13 1/4in) diam. Estimate HK$ 1,200,000-1,800,000 (€280,000 - 400,000). Sold for HK$ 1,480,000 (€ 175,838). Photo Bonhams.
Well-potted with gently rounded sides, the interior finely decorated with three gardenia blossoms borne on leafy branches encircled by four similar sprays on the cavetto, the veins of the flower petals and foliage subtly and delicately executed in white slip, the underside further decorated with a band of scrolling gardenia, all reserved on a vibrant speckled cobalt-blue ground, the base with an engraved character xi.
Provenance: Mrs Walter Sedgwick (1883-1967), collection label no.G21
An important European private collection
Note: The striking underglaze-blue ground and the white reserve decoration on the present dish create a powerful contrast, demonstrating the high level of technical virtuosity and refinement of the porcelain production during the Yongzheng period. The floral pattern was created with a mould and the surface then applied with a powder-blue glaze, leaving out the floral design in reserve, followed by firing.
The present lot is inspired by Yuan and early Ming dynasty dishes: see a blue reserved and white decorated barbed-rim dish, Yuan dynasty, illustrated by R.Krahl and J.Ayers, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum Istanbul: A Complete Catalogue. Yuan and Ming Dynasty Porcelains, vol.II, London, 1986, p.385, pl.551 (decorated with a qilin, pheasant and phoenixes); and a reserved white blue-glazed ground dish, Xuande (decorated with flowering and fruiting sprays), illustrated by J.Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, p.140, fig.4:41.
Dishes of this type can be found in important museums and distinguished private collections. See a closely related Yongzheng mark and period example formerly in the Samuel Putnam Avery Sr. collection until 1879, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, illustrated by S.G.Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, Boston, 1975, no.148; compare also an example formerly in the W.G.Gulland collection, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, museum no.204-1905; another example from the Nezu Museum, Tokyo, was included in Selected Masterpieces from the Nezu Museum Collection, Tokyo, 2009, pl.75.
See also another illustrated by R.Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol.II, London, 1994, pl.843, later sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 April 2011, lot 75; compare also a dish formerly in the Bulgari Collection, Rome, later sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 1 June 2011, lot 3570. See also two other examples, one from the Chang Foundation, illustrated in Selected Chinese Ceramics from Han to Qing Dynasties, Taipei, 1990, no.127, and the other was included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition: Splendour of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1992, no.133, later sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 2 November 1999, lot 584.
This design also exists in blue-and-yellow; see two examples illustrated in Illustrated Catalogue of Tokyo National Museum: Chinese Ceramics II, Tokyo, 1990, pls.586 and 587; and another at the Victoria and Albert Museum, museum no.205-1905.
Lot 15. A rare gilt-bronze and cloisonné enamel 'champion' vase and cover, 18th century.21.5cm (8 1/2in) high. Estimate 1,200,000-1,800,000 (€140,000 - 210,000). Unsold Photo Bonhams.
The two tall cylindrical vessels joined by an eagle with extended wings at the front and a ferocious dragon clambering upwards at the rear, the base further secured by an outstretched mythical beast, the domed cover also linked by a chi dragon with its head turned right looking back, all decorated in gilt with meandering scrolling Indian lotuses in vivid enamels of white, yellow, green, red and blue on a rich turquoise ground (2).
Provenance: Acquired from Spink & Son, Ltd., London on 31 August 1959, and thence by descent
An important European private collection
Note: Vases of this form are known as 'champion vases', which refers to the vessel's double-tubular compartments connected by an eagle (ying) and a bear (xiong). The word ying and xiong form the pun on the word for 'champion' or 'hero'. Champion vases were popular during the 18th century and were produced in various materials including jade, bronze and rhinoceros horn.
In form, the vase was inspired by earlier bronzes, such as the Tang dynasty 'champion' vase shown in the Xiqing Gujian, 1751, illustrated by M.Wilson, Chinese Jades, London, 2004, p.106, pl.107. The Qianlong emperor proposed to 'restore ancient ways', referring to the view of ancient culture as having intrinsic qualities of sincerity, simplicity and happy exuberance. For this purpose, the emperor instructed the court to collect drawings of antiquities, such as theXiqing Gujian, which were in turn provided to the craftsmen for inspiration. See Chang Li-tuan, The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, pp.49-50; for a jade example, Qianlong, from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, see Chang Li-tuan, ibid., pl.17; for a rhinoceros horn example, 18th century, from the Irving collection, see the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no.2015.500.6.15, and see also The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Bamboo, Wood, Ivory, and Rhinoceros Horn Carving, Hong Kong, 2002, pl.132.
Similar cloisonné enamel 'champion' vases can be found in important museum collections. See a vase of very similar design and size, 18th century, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no.29.110.80a, b; and another larger example, Qianlong, from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, no.M.178-1917; compare also a champion vase illustrated by H.Brinker and A.Lutz, Chinese Cloisonne: The Pierre Uldry Collection, New York, 1989, pl.208.
Compare a cloisonné champion vase from the Xian Qu Xuan Collection, illustrated in The Grandeur of Chinese Art Treasures: Min Chiu Society Golden Jubilee Exhibition, Hong Kong, 2010, pl.240; also another related cloisonné enamel 'champion' vase and cover, 17th/18th century, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30 May 2012, lot 3904.
Lot 13. A rare massive pale green jade mountain, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 25.5cm (10in) high. Estimate HK$ 700,000 - 1,200,000 (€82,000 - 140,000). Sold for HK$ 1,240,000 (€ 147,324). Photo Bonhams.
Deftly carved in the form of an imposing mountain in varying levels of relief, with crisp strokes to render layers of craggy rocks surrounded by gnarled pine andwutong trees, the front depicting a sage and an attendant carrying a qin walking up a steep path towards a fast flowing waterfall, the reverse with further rockwork supporting a lone pine and bushes, beside a cascading waterfall, all below the bare peaks, the stone of creamy-white tone with a few russet patches (2).
Provenance: Acquired in October 1964 by William (Billy) Winkworth (1897-1991) on behalf of the collector, and thence by descent
An important European private collection
Note: The present jade boulder is exceptional in size, indicating it would have been a particularly prized possession and possibly a special commission. It demonstrates superb craftsmanship of the jade ateliers during the 18th century, whose masterful understanding of the jade stone with its natural veins allowed the idealised concept of a three-dimensional mountainous scholarly retreat to emerge.
The subject matter of a scholar followed by an attendant is a familiar one and can be seen in various manifestations on jade boulders in the imperial collections in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and the Palace Museum, Beijing; see Chang Li-tuan, The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, pls.36, 37, 42, and 48; and see also The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Jadeware (II), Beijing, 2008, pls.47 and 53 (with the latter demonstrating a similar style of carving to the present lot, though on a much smaller scale).
William (Billy) Winkworth in his note dated October 1964 said of the jade mountain:
"The style of carving is to my eye typically Ch'ien Lung. This is the sort of piece which was made for the Summer Palace. What I like is the clever way the veins of discoloured stone have been adapted, some to make features of the landscape, others to give texture to the larger surfaces of bare rock on the back, for instance".
Compare a related large pale celadon and russet jade boulder, Qianlong, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 31 May 2010, lot 1900; see also a related important pale green jade mountain, 18th century, dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong, sold in our London rooms, 17 May 2012, lot 54.