Lot 3308. A superbly carved yellow and russet jade figure of a mythical beast, Ming dynasty (1368-1644); 7.7 cm, 3 in. Estimate HK$1,000,000– 1,500,000. Lot sold 1,250,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's.

skilfully rendered in the round in the form of a crouching mythical beast, the figure portrayed alert with piercing globular eyes above a well-defined snout and finely incised beard falling to its chest, all below stylised floppy ears, the rounded bodily contours highlighted with a defined backbone terminating in a bushy tail sweeping up against the haunches and body, the lustrous warm yellow stone extensively mottled with dark russet patches, wood stand.

ExhibitedMetal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth: Gems of Antiquities Collections in Hong Kong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 2002.

Note: This figure embodies elements characteristic of carved Ming mythical creatures, such as the almost deliberately archaistic style of the dramatic pose, exaggerated features, curling tail and choice of mottled stone. As many of these jade carvings were based upon illustrations in contemporaneous woodblock print manuals, such as the Cheng shi moyuan [Ink Impressions of Cheng] (1606), the piece also reveals the ability of the carver to transform such prints into remarkably naturalistic three-dimensional figures. 

Related carvings include a yellow jade example, but with the face and body turned slightly to its left, from the Gerald Godfrey Collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 866; one from the collection of Mr and Mrs Philip Pinsof, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, cat. no. 376; another, with a single horn, sold in our London rooms, 6th November 1973, lot 311; and a fourth example also with a horn, but with its head raised, from the collection of Joseph J. Schedel, sold at Christie’s New York, 2nd December 1989, lot 200.

Sotheby's. Beasts of Antiquity – Important Jade Animals from the Chang Shou Studio, Hong Kong, 05 Apr 2017