Lot 639. A fine large Imperial white jade 'nine dragon' beaker vase, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 9 in., 22.9 cm. Estimate 40,000 — 60,000 USD. Lot sold 144,000 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's
following the archaic gu form, with flattened central bulb between flared pedestal foot and high trumpet neck, all in oval section, carved overall in high relief with nine qilong, each with differing heads and aspects, clambering over the vase amidst clouds, including a very large ferocious dragon at the rim, with detailed scales and barbed spine, coiling towards a flaming pearl, the celadon-white stone with pale grey and opaque white inclusions, wood stand.
Provenance: Collection of Dr. Roy & Elaine Patterson, Wilmette, Illinois.
Acquired S. Bernstein & Co., San Francisco, 5th December 1994.
Exhibited: Ritual and Belief. Chinese Jade and Visual Arts, S. Bernstein & Co., San Francisco, 1994, cat.no. 38.
Literature: S. Bernstein, Collecting Chinese Jade, San Francisco, 1995, pp.64, pl.29.
Note: The high quality of workmanship, undercutting and detailed finishing of the present vase suggest that it was produced for the Qing court. Compare a very similar white jade gu vase also carved in high relief with nine qilong, exhibited at the Yongshougong, The Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, and illustrated in A Romance with Jade, From the De An Tang Collection, Hong Kong, 2004, cat.no. 129, which was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1506. See also one carved with only one dragon in relief, illustrated in The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, National Palace Museum, Taipei,1997, cat.no. 12.
The gu form is inspired by an archaic bronze ritual vessel shape and the qilong 'guarding the mouth of the vase' (shou kou ping) refers to the saying shou kou ru ping, or 'keeping the mouth closed like a bottle', and evokes well-guarded secrets.
Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, including Property from the Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, New York, 19 March 2007.