Jade carvings of tapirs are exceptionally rare. Even within this small group, the present carving was produced particularly early and bears atypical physical features. Other jade 'tapirs' date to the Qing dynasty and closely follow the visual formula of the ancient bronze models. See for example, an 18th century white jade 'tapir' vessel, from the collection of Lolo Sarnoff, sold in these rooms, 17th-18th March 2015, lot 323; and an 18th/19th century white jade 'tapir' sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2013, lot 3203. By contrast, the present carving dates several centuries earlier to the Song - Yuan period, and the animal's anatomy brings greater attention to the tapir's natural relationship to the horse, particularly in the long slender legs and hooved feet. Thus, the artisan's selection of this particular subject and decision to emphasize alternative physical characteristics testify to the high degree of original thought that went into making this figure.
The quality of the stone and the carving are also noteworthy. The yellow, russet, and dark brown variegation of the jade beautifully imitate the types of patterning that naturally occur on a tapir's hide. Additionally, the movement of the dark brown veining contributes to the sense of vitality of the animal. Together, these show the care with which the artisan matched the subject to the innate properties of the material.
The gentle contouring of the form and the attention to details - such as the subtle suggestion of the ribs where the body bends, and the sinuous curve of the spine that enhances the sense of the corporeal weight at rest - are consistent with the best animal-form carvings of the Song - Yuan period. Compare a strikingly similar yellow and brown jade figure of a hound, attributed to the Tang - Song period, and exhibited in Chinese Jade Animals, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1996, cat. no. 75; a Song dynasty white and russet jade carving of a horse from the Gerald Godfrey Collection, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 845; a Song dynasty yellow and russet jade carving of a hound, from the Muwen Tang Collection, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 1st December 2016, lot 200; a Song dynasty gray jade carving of a hound, from the W. P. Chung Collection, exhibited in Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 136; and a Yuan dynasty pale celadon jade carving excavated in Shanghai and published in Zhongguo chutu yuqi quanji/The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China, vol. 7, Beijing, 2005, cat. no. 216.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale