Lot 174. A superbly carved Chinese jade figure of a mythical horse, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Estimate $ 40,000-60,000. Photo Leonard Joel.

The mottled white jade figure, recumbent atop a bed of swirling waves and rockwork, with finely combed mane, its head turned towards a collection of books bound together with a flowing sash, symbolic of one of 'the four accomplishments' upon its back, the body depicted with scales and a dragon tail, in keeping with the Chinese legend of Haima (Sea Horse), 17.25cm length, with carved wooden stand.

ProvenancePurchased from The Joshua McClelland Print Room, 06/06/1962, by repute originating from Bluett & Sons, London, with a British Antique Dealer's Association label attached 

NoteAccording to the Liji (Book of Rites), Fuxi, a legendary ruler of Ancient China, was observing all under heaven, when he saw a fantastical figure emerge from the river. This creature had the form of a horse, the head of a dragon and the scales of a fish. The markings on its back inspired him to invent the eight trigrams, which led to the invention of writing, depicted by the books bound to the mythical horse's back. Later writings described the creature as having the essence of heaven and earth, with the form of a horse and the scales of a dragon, such as represented by the present lot, and it was said to appear when a sage ruled the land. The design is referred to as haima (sea horse). 

Naturalistic bases in jade carving, such as waves and rocks were a Ming dynasty innovation, and were later perfected during the Qing dynasty, as can be seen with this figure.  

For another mythical horse jade figure, longma please see: Christie's Hong Kong, 28th November 2006, lot 1419; The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 90; Sotheby's New York, 11 September 2012, Lot 294; Sotheby's London, 7 November 2012, Lot 375; for another example from the Qing dynasty with a similar motif on porcelain, please see: Sotheby's London, 6 November 2013, Lot 156  


A celadon jade mythical horse, longma, Qing dynasty, 18th century. Sold for HKD 960,000 at Christie's Hong Kong, 28th November 2006, lot 1419 © Christie's Images Ltd 2006


A rare celadon jade carving of a mythical horse, Qing dynasty, 18th century. Sold for 68,500 USD at Sotheby's New York, 11 September 2012, Lot 294. Photo: Sotheby's.


A white jade mythical horse, Qing dynasty, 18th century. Unsold at Sotheby's London, 7 November 2012, Lot 375. Photo: Sotheby's.

Leonard JoelThe Decorative Arts Collection of James Fairfax AC, 18:30 AEST, Thursday 31 Aug