Lot 3062. A Yellow Jade ‘Double Carp’ Vase, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 14.9 cm., 5 7/8  inEstimate 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 HKD. Lot sold 2,440,000 HKD  (229,706 EUR). Photo: Sotheby's.

meticulously carved in the form of a fish-dragon and a small fish, emerging from tempestuous waves in an upright manner, the mouth of the fish-dragon hollowed to form the mouth of the vase, their undulating tails flattened at the bottom to form the base, their bodies naturalistically carved to simulate an even scaly texture, their heads conjoined with a lingzhi cluster enclosing a 'flaming pearl', the translucent stone of a greenish-yellow tone with attractive russet streaks.

Provenance: Sotheby’s Paris, 15th December 2011, lot 194.

NoteThe present piece is notable for its dynamic and crisply carved depiction of two fish which skilfully capture a sense of movement and power while retaining the fine detail and finished surface that were appreciated by the jade connoisseurs of the Qing dynasty. The robust forms of the creatures and broadly formed waves of water draw attention to the yellow jade stone from which it has been fashioned, a material that was particularly treasured by the Qianlong Emperor.

Jade vases carved with this subject include a slightly smaller example, also carved from yellow jade but depicting two dragon carps, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 28th October 1992, lot 606; a slightly larger green jade vase, from the collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, and sold in our New York rooms, 11th April 1986, lot 229, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 27th November 2007, lot 1551; one of this size and also carved from yellow jade, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 1st April 1992, lot 1224; and a larger vase sold in our New York rooms, 25th February 1983, lot 257, and again in our London rooms, 6th June 1995, lot 50. See also a remarkable yellow jade vase of this type, the russet tones of the stone cleverly incorporated into the composition, included in the exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, cat. no. 421, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 9th October 2007, lot 1210; and another of spinach-green jade, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 49.

The dynamic carving captures the carp’s moment of transformation from a fish into a dragon upon swimming upstream in the Yellow River and leaping the rapids of the Dragon Gate. This theme was a popular pictorial subject as it is a metaphor for a scholar who passes the civil examinations and thus transforms into a high official. 

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 08 April 2014