The three rams on the cover was a popular motif which adorned porcelains, paintings and carvings, and form the rebus san yang qi tai ('Spring comes in its full form') suggesting the auspicious beginning of a new year. The rams also play on the character yang, which is homophonous with the character for the positive force of nature. In the Chinese lunar calendar san yang stands for the first month when Chinese New Year occurs. On the Eight Trigrams (bagua), the three continuous bars also represent san yang.
A white jade censer of this type but flanked with different handles, also carved with three rams on the cover, is illustrated in The Jade-carving Art in the Ch’ing Dynasty, National Museum, of History, Taipei, 1996, pp 80-81; another sold in these rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2609; and a third example sold in our London rooms, 28th October 1983, lot 201. Compare also a pair of archaistic tripod ding with three recumbent bovines on the cover, illustrated ibid., pp. 72-73.
A French art dealer, Georges Petit (1856-1920) was the son of Francois Petit, the founder of Galerie Francois Petit, which established itself as one of the leading and influential firms in the French art market. Georges Petit specialised in cultivating and promoting Impressionist artists, actively supporting people such as Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas and August Rodin.
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