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29 août 2019

An exceptional and rare beige and brown jade camel, Tang dynasty (618-907)





Lot 205. An exceptional and rare beige and brown jade camel, Tang dynasty (618-907)Width 2 3/8  in., 6 cmEstimate USD 200,000 — 300,000Lot sold 620,000 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.

naturalistically carved, the coiled recumbent animal depicted with the long neck elegantly curved to rest its head gently on its fore hump, its face well defined with a lipped mouth, flared nostrils and rounded eyes, its pointed ears swept back, the raised spine extending across the body, the softly polished stone with extensive russet brown veining.

Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).

NoteThis endearing figure of a camel is exquisitely rendered in a lifelike manner. The animal is lying, curled in a tranquil pose, the long neck coiled and the head resting on the fore hump. The round pebble chosen for this subject was used in a highly effective way, with the natural veins highlighted by narrow striations to suggest fur and the head and face defined by simple incisions.

The present figure belongs to a select group of jade camels portrayed in this particular curled pose. Characteristic of these figures is the rounded shape and the sparse surface decoration, however the underside of the figures are sometimes more defined.

The coiled position appears to be known from earlier jade animal figures. Compare a model of a feline from the Han dynasty, similarly depicted, with minimal adornment, illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, London, 1995, pl. 26:4.  

Traditionally linked with the Tang dynasty and the Silk Road routes, camels are more commonly portrayed in ceramic as majestic figures carrying foreigners or loaded with precious goods.  Naturally, they were associated with luxury and with the exotic, thus conferring status and wealth to their owners.

A jade camel from the Avery Brundage Collection was preserved in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, included in the exhibition Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing, The Asia House Gallery, New York, 1980, cat. no. 39, together with three other camels, recumbent, but in different positions: cat. no. 40 from the Brian McElney Collection, attributed to the Tang dynasty or earlier, cat. no. 41 from the collection of Victor Shaw and cat. no. 42 from the Guan-fu Collection, the latter two attributed to the tenth century. See also three jade camels in the Seattle Art Museum, illustrated in James C. Y. Watt, Chinese Jades from the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 1989, nos 32a-c, Six Dynasties to Tang, Tang or earlier and Tang to Ming dynasty respectively attributed.

A curled-up camel figure in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, was included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, cat. no. 201, together with  a larger example from the collection of Dr. Paul Singer, cat. no. 202, both attributed to the Tang dynasty. Another example from the collection of Sze Tak Tang, attributed to the Tang dynasty or earlier, is included in the exhibition catalogue, Zhongguo Yudiao/Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 128. Compare also a jade camel figure with its legs tucked under its body, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition, op. cit., cat. no. 258, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Richard C. Bull, sold in these rooms, 6th December 1983, lot 212.

Sotheby's. Junkunc: Arts of Ancient China II, New York, 10 September 2019