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photographer New Owner.
Water, Pine and Stone Retreat. Qianlong  Large picture | Small picture
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 8 October 2009: Lot 1827 

the translucent bluish-green jade vase of compressed zun form with a bulbous body rising to a wide flared foliate mouth, the body divided into vertical lobes with barbed edges extending sections from the splayed foot to the mouth, the neck flanked by a pair of finely carved elephant-head handles securing loose-ring handles, the stone with russet veining and a few russet patches (fitted box)
18.2 CM.

Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29th October 2001, lot 706.

It is rare to find jade vessels of this shape which is based on archaic bronze ritual wine vessel zun of the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties. See a late Shang zun, in the Shanghai Museum, illustrated in Zhonguo qingtongqi quanji, vol. 4, Beijing, 1998, pl. 127; and another Shang period zun included in Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Cambridge, Mass., 1987, pl. 49.

By adding the vertical lobes, alternately defined by raised and recessed lines, the impression is also given of four independent zun forms, superimposed upon each other and narrow enough to form the shape of gu, another archaic bronze vessel thus invoking two ancient bronze forms in one, while transforming the whole piece into an 18th century innovative design.

The present vase is also influenced by zhadou forms which became standardized by the Ming dynasty in ceramics, although this vase, with its constricted mouth, was probably never intended to serve as a cuspidor or zhadou, and was possibly made primarily as an ornamental and decorative object.  

For related zun form vessels see a white jade vase, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 154 (fig. 1); another vase carved of spinach-green jade, ibid., pl. 149; a white jade example, from the collection of the Countess of Halifax, sold at Christie's London, 13thFebruary 1978, lot 125; and a zhadou carved with petal flutes rising from the ring foot to the flared barbed rim, from the estate of Antoinette H. Van Slyke, sold in our New York rooms, 18/19thApril 1989, lot 213. 

 Semi-transparent sage-green jade pieces made of pebble material, such as the present vase, was especially popular with the Qianlong emperor. The stone used for the making of this vase has a bluish tone which is distinctly different from the standard spinach-green with its black flecking. For examples of Imperial vessels made in jade of this colouration see the bowl and cover in this collection, lot 1816, with a Qianlong yuyong (For the Imperial Use of the Qianlong Emperor) mark inscribed on the base.  

The elephant-head handles on this vase represent a contemporary design concept with an auspicious message making the object a highly desirable one. The elephant is closely associated with Daoism and is the symbol of peace. During Qianlong's reign, real elephants were used in processions when celebrating the Emperor's birthday. During New Year festivities, the elephant represented the time for renewal.

Fig. 1 A white jade vase, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period courtesy of the palace museum, Beijing



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Hugh Moss |