Lot 523. A finely carved white jade 'figural' circular table screen, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795). Diameter 24.2 cm; wood stand (2). Lot Sold 381,000 USD (Estimate 100,000 - 150,000 USD). © Sotheby's 2023

Provenance: Collection of Alwin Charles Ernst (1881-1948), and thence by descent.
Alwin Charles Ernst (1881-1948).

NoteWith varying levels of relief expertly carved and finished to a lustrous gloss, the present screen is a superb example of jade workmanship characteristic of the type created in the Imperial Palace during the Qianlong Emperor's reign. The skill of the carver is evident in the impeccably detailed figures and the vast ethereal landscape.

Screens such as the present piece were seldom created before the Qianlong period due to the rarity of large flawless pieces of jade. Such screens were fashioned from carefully chosen highly-translucent stones, which would enhance the differing depths of the carved pictorial scene, allowing viewers to be easily transported into the tranquil and inviting landscapes.

The Qianlong Emperor proclaimed that jade mountains and carved panels should carry the spirit of paintings by famous past masters. It is recorded that a number of classical paintings from the Emperor's own collection was ordered to be reproduced in jade, such as the well-known painting Travelers in the Mountains, by the eminent Five Dynasties painter Guan Tong (907-960). The Gengzhi tu, a set of forty-six paintings illustrating rice and silk cultivation commissioned by the Kangxi Emperor in 1696, was also recreated and is seen carved on a pair of screens in the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, illustrated in James C. Y. Watt, Chinese Jades from the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 1989, pl. 76.

See a closely related white jade table screen and a smaller apple-green jadeite example, both previously in the Heber R. Bishop Collection, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession nos 02.18.518 and 02.18.652). Compare a similarly carved white jade pair of screens of circular form in the Royal Collection Trust, illustrated in John Ayers, Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, vol. III, London, 2016, pls 1794 and 1795; a single jade screen from the De An Tang Collection was included in the exhibition A Romance of Jade from the De An Tang Collection, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 26; and a pair, one from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, and the other from the Frederick Knight Collection, illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 123, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27th November 2007, lot 1511; one with a champlevé enamel and gilt-bronze stand was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 11th July 2020, lot 3663; and lastly, a spinach-green jade example from the Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, sold at Christie's New York, 19th March 2019, lot 821.


Alwin Charles Ernst (1881-1948)

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Alwin Charles (A.C.) Ernst (1881-1948) was an American businessman best known for co-founding Ernst & Ernst, the forerunner of Ernst & Young accounting firm. Credited with pioneering the idea that accounting information could be used to advise business decisions, Ernst was also the first to introduce management consulting. Apart from several government appointments, he was also chosen in 1924 by the postmaster general and approved by President Calvin Coolidge to investigate the methods and costs of the United States Post Office. Noted as one of Cleveland's most charitable and philanthropic citizens, Ernst was a prominent and active member of the Cleveland area arts and civic organizations. He was a trustee and one of the founders and incorporators of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, a trustee of the College of Wooster and Hathaway Brown School, and of the Cleveland Protestant Orphan Asylum. Ernst also served on committees of the McKinley National Memorial Association, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Northern Ohio Opera Association.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 22 March 2023