Lot 18. A pair of green, russet and calcified jade pigs, Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD); 4 1/2in (11.4cm) long. Estimate US$ 15,000 - 25,000 (€ 12,000 - 21,000). © Bonhams 2001-2021
Each simply carved from a rectangular block of nephrite with features in a stylized form using strong slanting cuts to delineate the bodies, legs and heads, three simple lines engraved behind the snouts with a pierced tab to the underside, a further pierced tab to the tail, all with a high degree of polish.
Property from the Estate of Robert P. Youngman.
Provenance: Alvin Lo Oriental Art Limited, New York, 2001.
Literature: Alvin Lo Oriental Art Limited, Auspicious Jade Animals, New York, 2001, No. 2.
Note: For a near identical pair of pigs in size and design, see J.J. Lally & Co., Arts of the Han Dynasty, New York, 1998, No. 10, where the author refers to similarly modelled pigs illustrated by Max Loehr and Louisa G. Fitzgerald Huber, Ancient Chinese Jades from the Grenville Winthrop Collection in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Massachusetts, 1975, p. 387, no. 555, where those authors cite a very similar example found in an early Eastern Han tomb at Beizhuang, Dingxian, Hebei which was assigned on epigraphic evidence to the period 56-88 CE and illustrated in Kaogu Xuebao, 1964, no. 2, p. 148, fig. 4.
Jessica Rawson illustrates another pair, similar in color to ours, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, London, 1995, pp.319-320, no. 24:10 and notes that "carvings in the shape of recumbent pigs are found in many Han tombs. It has been assumed that they were weights, although they sometimes appear clasped in the hands of the dead."
James Watt, Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing, Asia Society, New York, cites a pig illustrated in Kaogu, 1974, no. 2, p. 121, as the earliest documented example of a pair of jade pigs found in the hands of a body in a burial tomb in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, which has been dated to the end of the third century BCE.
For other examples see Zhou Nanquan (ed.) Gugong Bowyuyuan Tsan Wenwu Jenping Quanji, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Jadeware (1), Hong Kong, 1995,, p. 233, no. 194; Chinese Jade Animals, Urban Council of Hong Kong, 1996, pp.68-69, no. 38; and Wu Hung and Brian Morgan, Chinese Jades from the Mu-Fei Collection, Bluett & Sons Ltd., 1990, no. 29.
Bonhams. Chinese Works of Art and Paintings, 15 Mar 2021, 10:00 EDT, New York