A related figure of an elephant with a saddlecloth, from the Guan-fu collection, was included in the exhibition Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing, Asia House Gallery, New York, 1980, cat. no. 57, where it is noted that the zig-zag pattern on the saddlecloth, also seen on the present piece, is reminiscent of Ming brocade designs. Compare also a greenish-yellow russet jade elephant carving, attributed to the seventeenth century, sold at Christie’s New York, 23rd March 2012, lot 1815; and a russet jade figure of an elephant and a boy, from the collection of H.R.H. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, attributed to the Yuan to Ming dynasty, sold at Christie’s Paris, 10th December 2014, lot 5, and again in these rooms, 3rd October 2017, lot 3758.
The incorporation of numerous auspicious motifs imbues this carving with well-wishes. The character for elephant, xiang, is homophonous with ‘luck’ in Chinese; when illustrated surmounted by a vase on its back, they form the auspicious rebus ‘taiping youxian’, symbolising peace and harmony; whereas the theme of a boy climbing or riding an elephant, symbolises the wish for good fortune.
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