PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Christie's Hong Kong, 3rd November 1996, lot 602.
This impressive present piece belongs to an exclusive group of jadeite censers that are carved from exceptionally high-quality stone, which has been cleverly analysed to incorporate the various tones of 'apple-green' into the overall form. Inspired by the archaic bronze vessel, the fang ding which is exquisitely synthesised with the novel material, an elegant balance between the colour of the jadeite and ornamental carvings has been achieved. Compare a related example, but carved from a light green stone, from the Huntington Library Art Gallery, San Marino, sold at Christie's New York, 23rd September 1988, lot 250.
Further examples of similar form and decoration include a large fang ding of mottled white and pale green tone, decorated in low-relief with taotie masks and with tall legs, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30th October 1995, lot 1273; and another carved with taotie masks and side dragon-head handles, from the Doris Duke collection, sold at Christie's New York, 21st September 2004, lot 116, and again at Christie's Hong Kong, 3rd December 2008, lot 2254. See also a fang ding carved with archaistic dragons and side handles, sold in these rooms, 14th November 1983, lot 359.
Jadeite ranks amongst the rarest and most precious materials used during the eighteenth century and was highly prized by the Empress Dowager Cixi to thus become synonymous with status and sophistication in the nineteenth century. Although regular supplies of the stone did not occur until the hostile relations between China and Myanmar stabilised in 1784, late in the Qianlong emperor's reign, it quickly garnered his attention and admiration. Due to the hardness and unusual colouration of the stone combined with the limitations presented by the existing carving tools and techniques, jadeite presented a new challenge for the Palace craftsmen to master. Earlier examples are often found with uneven glassy polish and cruder detailing as the abrasives and tools used to carve nephrite were not suitable on jadeite. However, these difficulties were remarkably quickly overcome and impressive works of art such as the current example were produced.
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