Imperial poems were rarely inscribed on vases during the Qing dynasty and only very few examples are known. An archaistic vase following an ancient bronze hu form with a poem carved on the body in the Palace Museum Beijing is illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 198. The poem on the vase is dated Qianlong bingwu (1786) and the clerical style of the script on that vase resembles closely the calligraphy on the present vase. Another jade archaistic vase but carved out of spinach jade in the Hartman Collection, illustrated by Robert Kleiner in Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 136, also bears an inscription, but is dated Qianlong dingwei (1787). It is likely that the present vase likewise dates to the late Qianlong period, when such Imperially inscribed vases seem to have been made. The elephant-handles which flank the vase also appear to be a late Qianlong innovation which continued into the early Jiaqing period, see for example a 'famille-rose' vase sold in these rooms, 30th October 2002, lot 269.
The style of the carving on the present vase is reminiscent of two superb white jade vases in the Palace Museum Beijing carved with prunus branches extending over the body, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 237 and 238. The crispness of the blossoms and the branches on the two vases resembles the carving of this vase so closely that one may assume that these were all produced in the Palace workshops at around the same time.
The original zitan stand matches the piece both in form, style and subject. Indeed, bamboo and pine branches can be seen emerging from the rockwork, completing with the prunus the 'Three Friends of Winter'. This stand would have been manufactured within a specific department in the zaobanchu (Imperial Palace Workshop), which dealt only with stands. Similar zitan stands made for jade carvings can be found in the Palace Museum Beijing, see for example a jade group and a carnelian group illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 138 and 142 respectively.
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