The present piece is of substantial size and powerfully carved, the movement of the carp depicted with great vigour, the natural variance in colour skilfully utilised into the carving. No comparable example appears to have been published. However, closely related counterparts are found in other materials, including two superlative works of art still in Beijing.
For a rock crystal double carp in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Classics of the Forbidden City: Life in the Forbidden City of the Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, pl. 219. A carnelian-agate example in the Heber R. Bishop collection was donated to the Metropolitan Museum in 1902, acc. no. 02.18.873. Compare also a spinach-green jade ‘double carp’ vase of identical iconography from the Qing Court collection, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures in the Palace Museum. Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, pl. 49. See also the Qianlong reign-marked yellow jade ‘double carp’ vase from the Palmer collection, included in the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, London, 1975, cat. no. 421, and sold at Bonhams London, 11th June 2003, lot 29, and more recently in these rooms, 9th October 2007, lot 1210. For a carnelian-agate carving of an individual dragon-carp depicted leaping upwards, see the example advertised by Spink & Son Ltd on p. 32 of the catalogue of The International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935.
The motif of leaping carp was a popular subject for its auspicious associations. According to Teresa Tse Bartholomew in Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006, p. 91, carp swimming upstream in the Yellow River must leap the rapids of Dragon's Gate; the first carp to succeed in doing this transforms itself into dragon. The feat is therefore a metaphor for a scholar who passes the civil service examinations and becomes a high official.
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