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Lot 103. A very rare agate lobed 'mallow' bowl. The bowl Song Dynasty or later; the silver mounts possibly 16th-17th century. Estimate 200,000 - 300,000 HKD (US$26,000 - 39,000)Sold for HK$ 2,880,000 (€330,476).  Photo: Bonhams.

Superbly carved as a mallow flowerhead with seven rounded petals rising from the circular foot, the translucent stone of golden-yellow and honey-brown tones, with natural striations of reddish-caramel banded ripples, the silver mount featuring a pair of confronted chi dragons clambering over the sides forming the handles, with traces of gilt. The bowl 12.3cm (4 7/8in) wide

ProvenanceBaron Eugène Fould-Springer (1876-1929), and thence by descent
Le Palais Abbatial de Royaumont (inventory label no.335)


Baron Eugène Fould-Springer (1876–1929)

Baron Eugène Charles Joachim Fould-Springer (1876–1929), of French-Jewish ancestry, descended from one of the most distinguished financial and industrial French families of the 19th century. He married Marie-Cécile von Springer (1886-1978), who hailed from a well-known family of Austrian industrialists. Born Eugène C.J. Fould, in 1908 he was ennobled by Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria as Baron Fould-Springer, and changed his name by decree in 1912. He and his wife divided their time between their Parisian residence on Avenue d'Iéna and Le Palais Abbatial de Royaumont. He died in Shanghai in 1929.

NoteFlower-shaped agate bowls of this early period are exceptionally rare with few published attributed to this early date. See a lobed agate 'mallow' bowl, Song dynasty, bearing a later incised Jiaqing mark, and another lobed agate 'mallow' bowl and stand, Song dynasty, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 5. Tang, Song, Liao, Jin and Yuan Dynasties, Beijing, 2011, pp.82-83, pls.73-74. In their lobed mallow form they are related to lobed wares produced in lacquer; for examples of seven-lobed mallow-shaped lacquer dishes, Song dynasty, see: Sō Gen no bi: denra no shikki o chūshin ni, Tokyo, Nezu Bijutsukan, 2004, pls.19-20; and P.Y.K. Lam, ed., 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, Hong Kong, 1993, pl.17. 

The remarkable silver chi dragon handles and mount, with traces of gilt, are similar in style to handles on Ming dynasty jade cups, such as those illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 7 Ming Dynasty, Beijing, 2011, pls.117-119, 123-126, 133, 135-136, 139-141, 147 and 148 (compare also the details on the dragon handles carved on this cup). It is also interesting to compare the mounts on the present bowl to a silver cup, 12th century, with a related high-relief chi dragon clambering over the sides and rim, found in a hoard dated to circa AD 1190 in Pengzhou, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, currently in the Pengzhou Museum, illustrated in Sō Gen no bi: denra no shikki o chūshin ni, Tokyo, Nezu Bijutsukan, 2004, pp.183-184, pl.480. 

The appreciation of the agate stone saw a revival during the Yongzheng reign; records in the archives of the Imperial Jade Workshops, yuzuo, dated 1724-1729, noted that the Yongzheng emperor ordered for agate brush washers and bowls to be kept undecorated in order to show the original pattern of the agate stone; pieces with 'intricate' designs or of unsatisfactory quality were rejected and sent back to the Imperial Palace Workshops. The Imperial collections in Taipei and Beijing hold a number of extant agate vessels, bearing the Yongzheng mark and of the period; see Feng Mingzhu, Harmony and Integrity: The Yongzheng Emperor and His Times, Taipei, 2009, pp.235-245; and in the Palace Museum, Beijing, an agate cup and dish; are illustrated by Yang Boda, Zhongguo Yuqi Quanji, Hebei, 2005, pp.553 and 550, nos.10 and 62.