The present carving identifies Yanzi with his usual attributes: the milk pail and the deerskin. From the reverse, only the animal's body can be seen, alluding to the efficacy of his disguise and Yanzi's success in completing his mission. In addition to capturing the essential features of the story in this succinct carving, the artisan has also made excellent use of the inherent qualities of the stone. The luminous yellow sections of the jade highlight the hero, while the naturally dark 'skin' of the stone maps onto the hide of the deer both distinguishing it from the figure and contributing a realistic coloration to the animal's coat.
A Song dynasty celadon and russet jade carving of this subject, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry N. Foster, was included in Chinese Jade: The Image from Within, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, 1986, cat. no. 82a; a Ming dynasty version in white and russet jade is in the collection of the Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., acc. no. S1987.759; a white jade iteration attributed to the Ming dynasty was included in Chinese Jade: An Important Private Collection, Spink & Son, London, 1991, cat. no. 120; a white and brown jade carving of this subject from the Qing dynasty was sold in our Paris rooms, 10th June 2014, lot 35; and a 17th century celadon and russet jade example sold in these rooms, 17th September 2003, lot 128.
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