Most of the jade and hardstone carvings offered in this sale come from the collection of Prof. Max Loehr (1903-1988), one of the most pre-eminent Western scholars of early Chinese art. His interests and research were wide-ranging, his studies embracing archaic jades, bronzes and classical Chinese paintings, his approach and scholarship forming and influencing later scholarship on Chinese art. It was from his teacher Ludwig Bachofer (1894-1976), professor of Asian Art at the University of Munich, and one of the first Western specialists in Asian Art, that Max Loehr gained an analytical approach on the evolution of artistic and aesthetic style in Chinese art. Indeed, one of the pieces offered in this sale (Lot 47), a large unfinished jade axe, is linked to Ludwig Bachhofer according to Max Loehr’s notes. Loehr remained close to Bachhofer and in 1936 was appointed curator of the Asian collections at the Museum für Völkerkunde in Munich. In 1940, Max Loehr moved to Bejing and soon after was appointed director of the Sino-German Institute where he remained until 1947 when he joined the faculty of Qinghua University until his return to Germany in 1949. Max Loehr subsequently moved to the US, first accepting a professorship at the University of Michigan in 1951, and, in 1960, becoming the first Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor and Curator of Oriental Art at Harvard.
It was during his time in China between 1940 and 1949 that Max Loehr put together a formidable collection of archaic jade and hardstone carvings, a slightly academic collecting area but one that was linked to his interests and research in Chinese archaeology. Like Berthold Laufer (1874-1934) and Abel W. Bahr (1877-1959), former owner of a magnificent large jade ceremonial blade featured in this sale (Lot 43), Max Loehr purchased many of the pieces in his collection from galleries, dealers and collectors in Beijing. He meticulously noted when and where he had acquired each piece, favouring above all Huang Jun (also known as Huang Bochuan) and his gallery Tong Gu zhai in Liulichang Street in Beijing. The notes he preserved also record that many of the pieces he collected passed into the hands of wellknown collectors and dealers, among them Frank Caro (1904-1980), successor to C.T. Loo after he retired in 1951.
While Max Loehr soon concentrated on the study of early Chinese bronzes, his interest in early jade never left him. In 1975, Max Loehr wrote the seminal catalogue on the vast archaic jade collection left by Grenville Lindall Winthrop (1864-1943) to the Fogg Museum, Harvard, in 1943. Many of the pieces in this collection mirror the pieces in Loehr’s personal collection. In 1960, the University of Michigan Museum of Art purchased from Max Loehr over 50 early jade and stone carvings, among them many rare examples of early Chinese Neolithic cultures. In 1993, the remaining part of Max Loehr’s collection from the estate of Max Loehr was offered for sale in New York by James J. Lally. Many of the pieces included in this exhibition are included in this sale and offer a rare insight into the early jade and stone-working cultures of Neolithic and early dynastic China.