Lot 47. A jade carving of a pair of magpies, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 7cm length. Sold for US$28,050 (Estimate US$10.000 - 15.000). © Bonhams 2001-2023
The love birds cuddle with tails crossed, holding a branch of prunus blossom in their beaks, their feet comfortably tugged underneath, the feather finely carved and incised, the stone with natural russet inclusions cleverly incorporated as part of the design, the prunus branches carved in openwork for stringing.
Provenance: Bluett & Sons Ltd., London, 1963
From the Collection of Roger Pilkington (1928-1969), Lancashire, England
Sotheby's Hong Kong, The Pilkington Collection of Chinese Art, 6 April 2016, lot 58.
Published: Elegantly Made: Art for the Chinese Literati, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 2020, no. 29.
Exhibited: Elegantly Made: Art for the Chinese Literati, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, March 13-27, 2020, no. 29
Note: In Chinese tradition, the magpie (喜鵲, xique) is a bird of happiness (喜, xi) and a messenger bringing good news, while the blossoming plum (梅, mei) signifies the arrival of Spring. Together they represent a 'blissful joy shown through one's eyes' (喜上眉[梅]梢, xi shang mei shao). A pair of cross-tailed magpies with prunus also represents fidelity and marital harmony, wishing the couple a lifetime of happiness together.
A very similar jade carving of a pair of magpies in the Palace Museum, Beijing, from the Qing Court Collection, is illustrated in Gugong bowuyuan cang wenwu zhenpin quanji (The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum), Vol. 42, Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, p. 102, no. 82.
Another very similar jade carving of a pair of magpies holding branches of prunus blossoms, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated on the museum's website, number 001934N, described as Ming-Qing.
Bonhams. J. J. Lally & Co. Fine Chinese Works of Art, New York, March 20, 2023