1

Lot 33. Rare Disque archaïque cranté en jade, Xuanji, Période Néolithique - Dynastie Shang, ca. 2000-1500 avant J.-C. Estimate 15,000 — 25,000 €. Photo: Sotheby's.

PARIS.- Dernière vente de l’année chez Sotheby’s à Paris, la vente d’Arts d’Asie se tiendra le 15 décembre à la galerie Charpentier et s’organisera en deux temps. La première vacation consistera en la dispersion de jades archaïques chinois comprenant l’ancienne collection Max Loehr (1903 – 1988), l’un des plus éminents spécialistes occidentaux de l’art chinois. Elle sera suivie d’une seconde vacation qui comprendra 114 lots provenant de diverses collections européennes.

PARIS.- The last sale of the year at Sotheby’s Paris, the Asian Art sale will take place on December 15. The first session will offer at auction a group of early Chinese jade and hardstone carvings including the Collection of Max Loehr. Just after, 114 works from private collectors will be offered at auction.  

JADES ARCHAÏQUES DE CHINE COMPRENANT L’ANCIENNE COLLECTION MAX LOEHR - EARLY CHINESE JADE AND HARDSTONE CARVINGS INCLUDING THE COLLECTION OF MAX LOEHR 

La majorité des jades archaïques présentée dans cette vente provient de l’ancienne collection de Max Loehr (1903-1988), un des plus éminents savants occidentaux en art chinois ancien, dont l’intérêt et les recherches sur les jades archaïques, les bronzes et la peinture classique de Chine influencèrent l’apprentissage à venir de l’art chinois. Bon nombre des pièces de cette vente sont aujourd’hui présentes dans cette vente et offrent un rare aperçu du travail sur pierre et jade des cultures néolithiques et anciennes de Chine. 

The majority of the archaic jade and hardstone carvings offered in this sale come from the collection of Prof. Max Loehr (1903-1988), one of the most pre-eminent Western scholars of early Chinese art whose interests and research on Chinese archaic jades, bronzes and classical paintings forming and influencing later scholarship on Chinese art. Many of the examples included in this sale offer a rare insight into the early jade and stone-working cultures of Neolithic and early dynastic China.  

Un rare disque cranté en jade, xuanji, datant de la période néolithique ou du début de la dynastie Shang, est l’une des pièces majeures de la collection Loehr. A l’impeccable finition, sa forme est à la fois abstraite et moderne. Il appartient à un ensemble rare mais distinctif de jades anciens découverts dans des sites néolithiques dans l’est et l’ouest de la Chine (lot 33, estimation : 15.000 – 25.000 €).

A rare jade notched disc, xuanji, dating to the Neolithic or early Shang Period, is one of the highlights of the Loehr group. Beautifully finished, its shape is abstract and modern at the same time yet belongs to a small but distinct group of early jades recovered from Neolithic sites in western and eastern China (lot 33, Est. €15,000 – 25,000*).  

2

Lot 33. Rare Disque archaïque cranté en jade, Xuanji, Période Néolithique - Dynastie Shang, ca. 2000-1500 avant J.-C. Estimate 15,000 — 25,000 €. Photo: Sotheby's.

A rare jade notched disk, xuanji, Neolithic period to Shang dynasty, ca. 2000-1500 BC  

les bords extérieurs sculptés de trois crans formant trois arcs de taille égale, ponctués de crêtes dentées et se terminant en une pointe légèrement arquée, le centre percé d'une large ouverture à bord concave, les côtés s'affinant vers le bord extérieur, la pierre de couleur vert olive à taches jaunes et brunes rehaussée d'une large marque trapézoïdale vert foncé au milieu. Diam. 11,1 cm, 4 3/8  in.

Provenance: Acquired in Beijing, October 1943 (according to Max Loehr's notes).
Collection of Prof. Max Loehr (1903-1988).
J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993.

ExhibitedEarly Chinese Jades. A Loan Exhibition Presented by the Museum of Art, University of Michigan, Alumni Memorial Hall, Ann Arbor, March 22 through April 22, 1953, no. 13.
Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993, no. 24.

LiteratureMax Loehr, Early Chinese Jades. A Loan Exhibition Presented by the Museum of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1953, cat. no. 13, and illustrated on the cover.
J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, New York, 1993, cat. no. 24.

02df18e802a7f827850c6e5fc2e496cc

Notes: Discs feature prominently among jade artifacts recovered from sites of the Neolithic Period to the Han dynasty. Among them, notched discs such as the present example, form a small but distinctive group. Defined by the deep notches that divide the circumference into segments, the earliest examples have been found in late Neolithic sites in eastern and western China. For an overview of notched discs, see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade. From the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pp. 160-162.

The beautifully finished present disc is comparable to other notched discs of similar size in Western collections formed in the 1930s and 1940. Compare, for example, two discs from the Winthrop Collection, illustrated in Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald Huber, Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1972, nos. 106 and 107, and a very similar notched disc of light green coloured jade from the Sonnenschein Collection, listed in Alfred Salmony, Archaic Chinese Jades from the Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection, Chicago, 1952, pl. XXXI.2. 

Egalement dans cette vente, un ornement en jade en forme de sabot de cheval datant de la période néolithique acquis par Max Loehr à Yamanaka Shokai à Pékin en 1944 (lot 23, estimation : 50.000 – 70.000 €). Réputé de Chifeng, en Mongolie intérieure, il correspond à un genre généralement associé à la culture Hongshan du nord-est de la Chine et aurait été utilisé comme un ornement ou ornement de coiffure. D’autres exemples sont souvent présents dans des collections occidentales pareillement formées dans la première moitié du XXe siècle.

Yet another rare Neolithic jade ornament in the form of a horseshoe was acquired by Max Loehr from Yamanaka Shokai in Beijing in 1944. Reputedly from Chifeng, Inner Monglia, it represents a type that is generally associated with the Hongshan culture of northeastern China and may have been used as a headdress or ornament. Other examples are well-represented in Western collections similarly formed in the first half of the 20th century (lot 23, Est. €50,000 – 70,000).  

3

4

5

6

Lot 23. Rare Ornement en forme de sabot de cheval en jade Période Néolithique, Culture Hongshan, ca. 3500 avant J.-CEstimate 50,000 — 70,000 €. Photo: Sotheby's.

A rare jade hoof-shaped ornament, Neolithic period, Hongshan culture, ca. 3500 BC   

de section ovale et de forme tubulaire évidée, s'évasant légèrement vers un bord supérieur oblique, la pierre de couleur beige mouchetée d'inclusions blanches, brunes et noires, les fins côtés finement polis sur les deux faces, traces de terre sur les bords intérieurs. Haut. 13 cm, height 5 1/8  in.

Provenance: Discovered at Chifeng, Inner Mongolia (according to Max Loehr's notes). 
With Yamanaka Shokai (according to Max Loehr's notes). 
Acquired in Beijing, January 1944 (according to Loehr's notes). 
Collection of Prof. Max Loehr (1903-1988). 
J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993.

4

ExhibitedChinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993, no. 20.

Literature: J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, New York, 1993, cat. no. 20.

Note: Several headpieces of this particular shape and size are known in private collections shaped in the first half of the 20th century, among them an example from the David David-Weill Collection, illustrated in Jean-Pierre Dubosc, Mostra d'Arte Cinese, Venice, 1954, cat. no. 185, and an example from the collection of Charles Vignier, illustrated in Otto Kuemmel, Ausstellung Chinesischer Kunst, Berlin, 1929, cat. no. 160. Yet another piece that was acquired by the Fogg Museum in 1943 from the Winthrop Collection, is illustrated in Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald-Huber, Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975, cat. no. 324. 

Une très longue et impressionnante lame cérémonielle en jade noir, aussi de la période néolithique, est représentative du travail du jade des cultures néolithiques de la Chine orientale et occidentale (lot 43, estimation : 80.000 – 120.000 €). Elle est remarquable par sa taille et la finesse de sa lame, suggérant qu’elle était plutôt destinée à un usage cérémoniel. Comme d’autres longues et fines lames en jade conservées dans des collections en Occident, cette pièce pourrait provenir d’un groupe découvert dans la province du Shaanxi au début du XXe siècle.

A very large and impressive black jade ceremonial knife-shaped blade also of Neolithic date, is representative of jade-working Neolithic cultures of eastern and western China. It is remarkable for its size and the extreme thinness of the blade suggesting it was made for ceremonial use. Like other examples of long thin jade blades known in Western collections, this piece may have come from a hoard in Shaanxi province discovered in the early part of the 20th century (lot 43, Est. €80,000 – 120,000).  

5

6

Lot 43. Importante lame cérémonielle en jade, Période Néolithique,  ca. 2000-1200 avant J.-C. Estimate 80,000 — 120,000 €. Photo: Sotheby's.

An important large dark green jade ceremonial knife-shaped blade, Neolithic period, possibly North-West China, ca. 2000-1200 BC

la longue et fine lame quadrangulaire percée par le haut de trois orifices près du côté long coupé droit, le côté opposé légèrement arrondi au bord nettement taillé en biseau et s'évasant vers le bord inférieur oblique, la face inférieure plate, la pierre de couleur noire avec quelques inclusions laiteuses et brunes, la surface entière soigneusement polie. 48,5 cm, 19 1/8  in.

Provenance: Collection of A. W. Bahr (1877-1959), no. L 47.115.
The Pan Asian Collection, New York, offered as part of the Pan Asian Collection in Christie's New York, 1st December 1982, lot 205. 
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, New York, 1995.

Notes: Large ceremonial blades carved from jade form an important object category among jade-working Neolithic cultures of eastern and western China. A magnificent and very large jade blade included in the 1975 Exhibition The Great Bronze Age of China, New York, 1980, no. 3, is generally considered one of the largest blades of this type. Like the present example, it is remarkable for its size and the extreme thinness of the blade. A number of slightly conical perforations parallel to and near the long side of the blade suggest a handle.

The present simple and plain blade with its carefully beveled cutting edge is carved from a very dark green, almost black jade. It is closely related to a group of jade ceremonial blades of similarly large size and colour discovered in a hoard in Shenmu Shimao, Shaanxi province, in the early part of the 20th century, that have been dated to between the late Neolithic and Shang period (ca. 2500-1200 BC). Quite a few of these long thin ceremonial blades entered Western collections shortly after the discovery of the hoard. Compare two blades in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, published in Harold Peterson, Chinese Jades: Archaic and Modern from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, London, 1977, pp. 68-71, nos. 45 and 47; two further blades from the Sonnenschein Collection and now in the Art Institute of Chicago, are illustrated in Alfred Salmony, Archaic Chinese Jades from the Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection, Chicago, 1952, nos. 50.313 and 50.317. Another large jade blade also from the collection of A. W. Bahr and now in the Field Museum, Chicago, is illustrated in Berthold Laufer, Archaic Chinese Jades collected in China by A. W. Bahr now in the Field Museum of Natural History Chicago, New York, 1927, pl. V.1.

Parmi les nombreuses sculptures en jade en forme d’animaux, deux exemples se distinguent. Le premier, un petit buffle en jade noir et blanc datant de la fin de la dynastie Shang, remarquable par son exécution et son travail tridimensionnel (lot 10, estimation 12.000 - 15 000 €).

Among the many small animal-shaped jade carvings, two examples stand out. One is small black and white jade figure of a recumbent buffalo, dated to the late Shang period and notable for its elaborate and three-dimensional carving (lot 10, Est. €12,000 – 15,000).  

6

7

 Lot 10. Rare Petit buffle en jade, Dynastie Shang - Dynastie des Zhou Occidentaux, ca. 1100-950 avant J.-C. Estimate 12,000 — 15,000 €. Photo: Sotheby's. 

A rare small grey and black jade figure of a recumbent buffalo, Shang dynasty to Western Zhou dynasty, ca. 1100-950 BC 

représenté allongé avec une tête large et stylisée, le museau percé, les cornes sculptées dans la partie noire de la pierre, le corps détaillé et bombé d'un côté, plat de l'autre, le jade de couleur blanche opaque rehaussée de noir - 4,5 cm, 1 3/4  in.

Provenance: Discovered in Anyang, Henan (according to Max Loehr's notes).
Dr. Otto Burchard (1892-1965), Beijing (according to Max Loehr's notes).
Acquired in Beijing, April 1944 (according to Max Loehr's notes).
Collection of Prof. Max Loehr (1903-1988).
J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993.

02df18e802a7f827850c6e5fc2e496cc

ExhibitedEarly Chinese Jades. A Loan Exhibition Presented by the Museum of Art, University of Michigan, Alumni Memorial Hall, Ann Arbor, March 22 through April 22, 1953, no. 70.
Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993, no. 57.

Literature: Max Loehr, Early Chinese Jades. A Loan Exhibition Presented by the Museum of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1953, cat. no. 70.
J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, New York, 1993, cat. no. 57.

Note: Small pendants or ornaments in the form of animals form a major category of jades in the Shang period and can be found in many of the major burials of high-ranking individuals. Among them, small carvings of bovines are rare. The present example is notable for its quite elaborate and three-dimensional carving. As noted by Jessica Rawson, it may be at the beginning of a tradition as these animal carvings became progressively flattened, see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade. From the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pp. 42-43. The buffalo itself may have been inspired by or copied from bronzes from the south and southwest.

Le deuxième, une très rare sculpture d’un animal fabuleux assis en jade jaune (lot 18, estimation : 100.000 – 150.000 €). D’un travail exquis et sculpté de façon naturaliste, cette petite créature, à l’allure d’un ours mais dotée de deux ailes et d’une corne proéminente, semble avoir un lien avec les créatures ailées venant du monde des esprits habitant l’iconographie des sculptures en jade et pierre de la dynastie Han et peu après des Six Dynasties. Si elle s’apparente aux animaux en jade archaïque, cette charmante créature peut tout aussi bien avoir été une copie d’une pièce ancienne faite durant la dynastie Song, lorsque l’intérêt pour les pièces antiques resurgit et inspira la fabrication de sculptures animales en jade (lot 18, estimation 100/150 000 euros).

The second is a very rare small yellow jade figure of a seated mythical beast. Exquisitely carved and realistically rendered, this small creature resembling a bear but with wings and a prominent horn, seems to have a connection with the mythical winged creatures of the spirit world inhabiting the traditions of jade and stone carvings of the Han and subsequent Six Dynasties period. While it has a close affinity with early jade animals, this charming creature may equally have been made as a copy of an earlier piece in the Song period when the resurgence of a more general interest in antiquity fuelled the appearance of small jade animal carvings (lot 18, Est. €100,000 – 150,000). 

7

8

9

10

11

Lot 18. Rare animal fabuleux en jade jaune, Dynastie Song ou antérieurEstimate 100,000 — 150,000 €. Photo: Sotheby's.

A rare small yellow jade figure of a seated mythical beast, Song dynasty or earlier

la chimère au corps charnu sculptée assise en position de délassement, croquant à pleines dents dans une pêche tenue dans sa patte droite, sa patte gauche reposant sur son genou gauche plié, la tête au large museau et grands yeux, frangée de poils bouclés devant une double corne arquée émergeant de son front, l'arrière sculpté de deux fines ailes aux contours soigneusement détaillés retombant le long du dos, le pelage rehaussé de petits ronds et motifs quadrifoliés finement incisés, la queue commenceant en bas du dos et continuant sous la base, la pierre de couleur vert-jaune pâle rehaussée de rouille. Haut. 5 cm, height 2 in.

Provenance: J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993.

ExhibitedChinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 1993, no. 85.

Literature: J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Jades and Bronzes from the Estate of Professor Max Loehr and Others, New York, 1993, cat. no. 85.

Notes: Small, exquisitely carved and realistically rendered jade animals were made from the Han dynasty until the early Qing dynasty. They form an important group made to be treasured and enjoyed. As noted by Jessica Rawson, very few of these carvings were buried in tombs, hence making the dating of many pieces almost impossible, judging wether such a piece was made as an early example or was made as a copy in subsequent periods. We know that at least from the Song period, copying was encouraged, fuelled by the resurgence of a more general interest in antiquity, see Jessica Rawson and John Ayers, Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, London, 1975, pp. 14-17. Compilations on ancient jades and bronzes such as the Kaogu tu by Lu Dalin of 1057, and the Gu yu tu by Ju Dejun of 1341, provided information on antiquities ranging from archaic bronzes and jades to sculpure from which designs could be derived. 

The present carving of a winged mythical creature resembling a bear seems to have a connection with the mythical winged creatures of the spirit world inhabiting the traditions of jade and stone carvings of the Han and subsequent Six Dynasties period. From at least the Han dynasty, jade was firmly associated with immortality, was connected with beliefs in spirits, omens and immortals. Winged creatures of animal and human form inhabited the universe of the Han and Six Dynasties period, and were an integral part of the decorative repertory of the period. Winged creatures were similarly carved in jade, forming a small but distinct group. Among the rare examples known is a group of jade carvings including a bird, a bear, mythical beasts and a winged horse with a rider found in the tomb of the Western Han emperor Yuandi (r. 48-33 BC) at Xianyang near present-day Xian, published in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 3, Shijiazhuang, 1991-1993, nos. 147, 150 and 151, a winged feline dated to the Six Dynasties period, illustrated in Jessica Rawson and John Ayers, Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, London, 1975, cat. nos. 178-196, and a powerfully carved yellow jade figure of a winged beast, formerly in the collection of Xu Hanqing, sold Sotheby's Hong Kong, 6th April 2016, lot 3025. 

The present jade figure closely resembles a bear but with wings and a horn on its head. While several small jade figures of bears are known, compare the jade bear from the Hotung Collection, illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade. From the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, p. 359, cat. no. 26:3, or a small figure of a jade bear in the British Museum collection, ibid., p. 350, fig. 1, the present jade carving interestingly shares the wings and horn with a flat calcified jade carving of a bear, recently discovered in the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun (d. 59 BC) near Nanchang in Jiangxi province, published in Kaogu, 2016.7, p. 59, fig. 47 (Fig. 1). 

While the present winged creature has a close affinity with these Han and Six Dynasties jades, the carving is visibly softer, more playful revealing in points of detail an awareness of and respect for the conventions of the past while adding a touch of individuality. While there is a good reason to date the present jade figure of a winged mythical beast to the Han period, it cannot be assigned to the Han period unconditionally.

Ventes jeudi 15 décembre à 10h30 & 14h30 - Exposition du 10 au 14 décembre 2016