Lot 3631. An imperial gilt-bronze hilted knife and white jade scabbard, Qing dynasty, 18th century; overall 35 cm, 13 3/4 in. Estimate 600,000 — 800,000 HKD (76,434 - 101,912 USD). Unsold. Courtesy Sotheby's.
the slender sharp blade fitted with a gilt-bronze hilt skilfully cast with a thin key-fret band below dense lotus scrolls and terminating with a jade pommel incised with a further key-fret band, the white jade scabbard finely worked in low relief with dense floral blooms borne on leafy scrolls between two thin key-fret bands, one side with a raised shou character below a gilt-bronze band mounted to the opening.
Provenance: Collection of Millicent Rogers (1902-1953), thence by descent to her second son Arturo Peralta Ramos II (1928-2015).
Note: It is very rare to find a white jadeite scabbard with a gilt-bronze handle, which represents a fine example of the high standards of artistic production achieved in the 18th century. Another imperial gilt-bronze knife with a white jadeite scabbard, but with a green jadeite pommel, was sold in our New York rooms, 23rd September 1997, lot 11, and again in these rooms, 8th April 2009, lot 1704. Compare a knife of this type with a jade handle and an intricately carved wood scabbard depicting a flowering lotus scroll, from the collection of Dr Ip Yee, included in the exhibition Bamboo and Wood Carvings of China and the East, Spink and Son Ltd, London, 1979, cat. no. 277 and sold in these rooms, 19th November 1984; another with jade handle and diaper-carved bamboo scabbard, sold at Christie's New York, 21st September 2004, lot 76; and a pair of slightly smaller knives with carved jade handles and scabbards, sold in our London rooms, 7th June 1994, lot 138. A similar gold knife with a white jade handle and inlaid gold sheath was included in the exhibition Splendours of China's Forbidden City, The Field Museum, Chicago, 2004, cat. no. 248, and is pictured in situ, cat. no. 250.
A very rare imperial gilt-bronze knife and white jadeite scabbard, Qing dynasty, early 18th century; 33 cm., 13 in. Sold for 1,220,000 HKD at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8th April 2009, lot 1704. Courtesy Sotheby's.
The use of personal knives at meals was a mark of Manchu identity. Manchu men were supposed to cut their meat themselves so as to not fall into the decadent Han Chinese habit of eating their meat pre-cut. When eating sacrificial pork, women were also expected to cut up their own meat. Knives with other eating utensils formed part of the dowries of princesses and even maidservants (see the exhibition catalogue ibid., pp. 197-201).
This knife was formerly in the collection of Millicent Rogers (1902-1953), a legendary socialite known for her intelligence and beauty and was reputedly close with Madame Soong Mei-ling (1897-2003). Millicent Rogers was the granddaughter of Henry H. Rogers, who co-founded Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller and was a patron of the famous American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910). Fluent in six languages, Millicent translated Latin and Greek poetry. She was also gifted in fashion and jewellery design. With her privileged upbringing and artistic talents, Rogers was a connoisseur and collector with a highly refined personal taste. A white jade 'ram-head' teapot originally in her collection was sold in these rooms, 3rd October 2017, lot 3613.
Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 03 oct. 2018, 03:00 PM