Lot 121. A white jade of 'horses and monkey', Qianlong period (1736-1795); 8.5cm (3 3/8in) long. Estimate £4,000 - 6,000Sold for £ 43,812 (€ 50,017). © Bonhams 2001-2019

Superbly carved as two recumbent horses with the legs neatly folded and tucked underneath the bodies, both heads with finely-incised manes turned back facing each other, the monkey precariously climbing between them, grasping a rein strapped to the bridle of the right horse, the translucent stone of a white tone. 

Provenance: Christie's London, 14 December 1978, lot 49
Lowenthal Collection, no.56.

Note: The monkey (hou 猴), is a homophone for 'marquis' (hou 侯), which on top of a horse (mashang 馬上), also meaning 'quickly', is a rebus for 'quick ennoblement' or rising quickly up the ladder of success in one's career. Compare with a related jade carving of a horse and monkey, Qianlong, in the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures in the Palace Museum: Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, p.111, no.91.


Hans 'Jack' Lowenthal was born in Frankfurt, Germany but at the age of five was brought to Britain with the rest of his family by his father in 1933. Although he briefly returned to Germany in 1934-1937 he thereafter permanently settled London. His father Julius Lowenthal founded the Smokers' and other accessories' business in Germany in 1921 but when he invented the most original semi-automatic lighter in 1928 he named it Colibri. Colibri gift lighters, pens, watches wallets became internationally well-known under the Colibri brand. In 1953, Hans Lowenthal joined Colibri and was the Managing Director for over 25 years. Lowenthal enjoyed designing and creating new products and he holds several important patents. Among the most important of his inventions was incorporating the Piezo-electric concept into a lighter, thereby creating a lighter that never needed a flint or battery, as the ignition spark was created manually. In 1967, he named the Colibri version 'Molectric' (molecular electricity). He also supervised Colibri when commisioned to design and manufacture the 'Golden Gun' and various Colibri products for the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.

Julius Lowenthal began collecting jades in the 1950s, and one of his first items included a jade axe (Lot 127). Jack inherited his father's interest in jade and stone carvings and continued to collect and regularly attended auctions. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack purchased jade carvings from several well-known dealers including Louis Joseph, Hugh Moss, Roger Keverne, Michael Gillingham, and Marchants. Jack was a particularly passionate collector of tactile jade carvings of animals.

Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art, London, 16 May 2019