QING DYNASTY, KANGXI PERIOD
finely carved in the form of a recumbent qilin, with its head turned back to the left, and the hind legs tucked under its broad muscular body, the face well defined by bulbous eyes, flared nostrils, furrowed eyebrows and surmounted by stubby flaring horns, its feathery trefoil tail delicately detailed with fine lines and curled alongside its left haunch, surrounded by stylised swirling flames, and resting on billowing lingzhi cloud swirls, the white stone of a pale celadon tone throughout
From the Collection of Countess Moira Rossi de Montelera.
This exquisite carving, with confidence of sculptural form and subtle yet elegant surface decoration, may have served as a decorative plaything or a paperweight for the literati. The large size and fine quality of the stone would have made it an ideal piece for carrying in the hand.
From the Han dynasty onwards, strange and miraculous creatures such as this piece were deemed to be portents and omens. Lingzhi fungus was also known to be a symbol of immortality. The combination of functional artistic object with auspicious symbolism would have made such a piece highly desired and valued.
A comparable jade carving of a qilin amid clouds with similar hairwork to the tail was published by Brian Morgan in Naturalism and Archaism: Chinese Jades from the Kirknorton Collection, Carter Fine Art Limited, 1995, no. 42. See another related qilin holding a lingzhi sprig in its mouth, illustrated in The Minor Arts of China, vol. IV, London, 1989, cat. no. 167. Compare a similar qilin paperweight, sold in our rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 125; and another, lot 144. See another qilin paperweight, of a larger size and attributed to the Ming Dynasty, sold in our London rooms, 14th November 2000, lot 52.
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