Lot 13. A celadon jade ancestor mask, Neolithic period, Shijiahe culture (2500–2000 BC); 6.5 cm. Estimate: 800,000- 1,000,000 HKD. Lot sold: 1,449,000 HKD. Courtesy Sotheby's.
skilfully and subtly worked in relief on one side of the openwork plaque to depict an anthropomorphic face, the eyes rendered powerful and large above a mouth revealing its teeth.
Property from the Kuan Yi Ju Collection.
Note : This remarkable, crisply carved plaque represents one of the exceedingly rare jade artefacts that can be attributed to the Shijiahe Culture, a late Neolithic culture that flourished in the second half of the third millennium BC in the middle Yangzi River valley around Tianmen in Hubei province. Shijiahe plaques with these characteristic ragged outlines, their bold facial features delineated by thin raised lines, and the open mouth revealing sharp teeth, are considered to represent ancestor masks.
A closely related Shijiahe plaque is preserved in the Art Institute of Chicago (accession no. 1950.372, fig. 1) and was included in the Museum’s exhibition, Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection of Archaic Chinese Jades, Chicago, 1952, pl. XXXVI, cat. no. 2. The top of a bar-shaped jade plaque in the collection of the National Museum of Asian Art, Washington, D.C. (accession no. LTS1985.1.276.2) has a virtually identical mask to the present piece on one side and a related one on the reverse, gifted by John Gellatly, included in the exhibition 5000 Years of Chinese Jade: Featuring Selections from the National Museum of History, Taiwan, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas, 2011-2, cat. no. 7.
fig. 1. A jade mask plaque, Neolithic period, Shijiahe culture, Edward and Louise B. Sonnenschein Collection Art Institute of Chicago (no. 1950.372).
Ornament (shi 飾) with mask, Shijiahe culture 石家河 (ca. 2500-ca. 2000 BCE), Late Neolithic period, ca. 2500 - 2000 BCE, ca. 2500 - 2000 BCE. Jade (nephrite). H x W x D: 7.9 x 4.5 x 0.7 cm (3 1/8 x 1 3/4 x 1/4 in). China, Middle Yangzi valley, Hubei province. Long-term loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of John Gellatly, 1929.8.276.2. Accession no. LTS1985.1.276.2. © 2021 Smithsonian Institution
Compare two other mask-shaped, flat plaque ornaments; a smaller one, also formerly in the collection of John Gellatly and now in the National Museum of Asian Art (accession no. LTS1985.1.276.3); the other, slightly wider and the face pierced with a hole, formerly in the Yang-te-t’ang Collection, included in the Collectors’ Exhibition of Archaic Chinese Jades, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1995, cat. no. 18, recently sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29th November 2017, lot 2722.
Ornament (shi 飾) with mask, Shijiahe culture 石家河 (ca. 2500-ca. 2000 BCE), Late Neolithic period, ca. 2500 - 2000 BCE, ca. 2500 - 2000 BCE. Jade (nephrite). H x W x D: 3.7 x 7 x 0.5 cm (1 7/16 x 2 3/4 x 3/16 in). China, Middle Yangzi valley, Hubei province. Long-term loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of John Gellatly, 1929.8.276.2. Accession no. LTS1985.1.276.3. © 2021 Smithsonian Institution
Sotheby's. Monochrome III, Hong Kong, 22 April 2021