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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 112 

Lot 112

Lot 112
Treasury 1, no. 16 (‘Chi-foot Pebble’)

Nephrite of pebble material, possibly with artificial colour; very well hollowed; carved with three chi dragons and a spray of lingzhi fungus, the head and shoulders of one beast forming the base; the natural pebble skin possibly enhanced with staining
Possibly imperial, 1700–1820
Height: 5.93 cm
Mouth: 0.6 cm
Stopper: coral, carved as a twig (a replacement for the similar stopper shown in Treasury 1)

Hugh M. Moss Ltd (Hong Kong, 1992)

Treasury 1, no. 16

The tentative imperial designation is based entirely upon the subject matter, which was so popular at court. The pebble material might also be an indication of such a provenance, but its use was so common to the jade carving tradition of China, going back to at least the Han dynasty, that this factor is hardly significant on its own.

It is possible that the natural pebble skin has been enhanced by staining, which was typical of court jade production and was ordered by the emperor on wares made for the court at Suzhou, but it may be entirely natural. It is often difficult to distinguish the difference when a natural pebble skin has been carefully enhanced. Logically, however, there would seem to be little need to enhance this piece of stone, since it obviously has a good deal of natural skin.

The carving of the dragons is as fine and convincing as any known and, although of a different style, is artistically in a class with the great masterpieces of chi dragon decoration on jade snuff bottles. The carving is under the total command of a master artist and lapidary, and the separation of ground and relief planes is exquisite. Each of the three beasts is unusually long, thin, and superbly fluid in its sinuousness, to the point of having an almost snake-like body, with little distinction made between the thickness of the long, flowing bodies and the limbs and tails. The tails are also distinctive in having a short third division emanating from the point where the two main branches of the tail split. Two of the beasts’ heads are distinctly feline, while the third is almost hawk-like, with a long, protruding, almost beaked upper lip and a shorter, bearded lower lip. All are standard forms for the chi dragon over the centuries, which could be depicted with dragon-, feline-, or fenghuang-like heads, but in combination with the body style here they make for a distinctive departure from the more normal creatures found on palace products of the mid-Qing period. This suggests, perhaps, that if it was made for the court it was made either at a distant facility or by a carver summoned to the palace workshops who imported an individual style of carving the beast.


This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s


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