Lot 115. An exceptional pair of Imperial white jade bowls, Incised Qianlong four-character marks and of the period. Sold for HK$ 6,060,000 (€695,376). Photo: Bonhams.

Each bowl with deep rounded sides rising to a flared rim, raised on a circular foot ring, of lustrous polish displaying exceptional translucency in the nearly flawless white stone, the base incised with a four-character kaishu mark and an additional incised jia mark on the footrim, wood stands and fitted box. Each 15.5cm (6 1/8in) diam. (5).

Provenance: An important Asian private collection

Note: The Qianlong emperor's conquest of the Dzungar Khanate, now known as Xinjiang, between 1755 and 1759, permitted a larger quantity of jade to be sent to the Qing court; and with that, the opportunity for careful selection of the highest-quality material for the use of the emperor.  

The exceptional quality of the white jade stone, smoothly polished to a lustrous sheen, would have made any embellishment superfluous. Perfectly proportioned, these bowls, exquisitely matched in colour and polish, exemplify the finest jade craftsmanship accomplished in the jade ateliers during the celebrated reign of the Qianlong emperor. Compare a similar pair of white jade bowls, 18th century (14.5cm diam.), unmarked, in the British Museum, illustrated by J.Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, pl.29:13, where the author notes that undecorated jade vessels in porcelain shapes, as here, probably represented the highest quality in eating and drinking utensils. 

The present bowls are particularly rare because of the Qianlong Imperial reign marks incised on their base, and more so for the use of the additional character mark. Compare two other undecorated jade bowls, Qianlong marks and period with an additional Jia-character mark, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, the first of identical size (acc.no.GY000742N), and the second, of slightly smaller size (acc.no.GY000583N). A further similar white jade bowl, Qianlong mark and period with an additional jia character, is illustrated in Ming and Qing Chinese Arts from the C.P. Lin Collection, Hong Kong, 2014, pl.130. 

See also a pair of white jade bowls, Qianlong seal marks and period (13cm diam.), from the Andrew K.F. Lee collection, illustrated by Tina Yee-wan Pang and Jane Sze, eds., Virtuous Treasures: Chinese Jades from the Scholar's Table, Hong Kong, 2008, pl.31.; and another white jade bowl, Qianlong, unmarked, illustrated in The Splendour of Jade: The Songzhutang Collection of Jade, 2011, pl.152. Compare also a pair of pale green-white jade bowls, Qianlong, unmarked, in the British Royal collection, presented by the Guangxu emperor on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, illustrated by J.Ayers, Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, vol.III, London, 2016, p.762, nos.1798-1799. 

A similar pair of white jade bowls, 18th century, without a mark, was sold at Sotheby's London, 14 May 2014, lot 23.