This charming piece is finely modelled from a long jade pebble, the stone cleverly utilised to depict a group of three ducks and ducklings. Small jade carvings such as the present were created according to the shape of the pebble to ensure minimal wastage of the precious stone. Compare a carving of three ducks, each grasping a lotus branch, sold in our New York rooms, 16th September 2009, lot 238; and another of two ducks sold in our London rooms, 31st October 1986, lot 304. See also a lapis lazuli
carving of two mandarin ducks fashioned with similarly conjoined beaks, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in Ming Wilson, Chinese Jade
, London 2004, pl. 100.
A pair of mandarin ducks is symbolic of fidelity and a happy marriage, and form the rebus ‘May the mandarin ducks grant you a happy marriage and distinguished sons’ (yuanyang guizi).