This substantial boulder is carefully worked with refined three-dimensional modelling and openwork, depicting succulent, plump peach fruits borne on an intertwining network of knotted stems of rougher and coarser texture. The thoughtful arrangement of the nine fruits enables the carving to be appreciated equally from both sides. The depiction of peaches at various stages of ripeness also avoids over cluttering of the overall composition. Moreover, the craftsman cleverly interrupted the monotonous subject with naturalistic furled leaves in shoots of twos and threes. This is only possible with meticulous scrutiny of detail and an erudite knowledge of nature.
Peaches are associated with various immortal dignitaries and often considered as symbols of longevity. It is not unusual to find peaches as subjects of jade carvings as the stone was traditionally associated with immortality. It altogether depicts nine peaches. Nine, being a propitious number, is sophisticated in its concept and reassuring in its eternal message conveying affluence and long life. The subject and its numerical significance is particularly enamoured by the Qianlong Emperor, to an extent that it became one of the best-loved porcelain designs in his period, as demonstrated by a group of revered imperial famille-rose ‘nine peaches’ porcelain vases, tianqiuping. One of such example, from the Meiyintang collection, was sold in these rooms, 5th October 2011, lot 15.
Although it is not uncommon to find jade carvings depicting peaches, similar examples rendered in such large size, sophistication and quality are particularly rare. Compare a white jade ‘peach and bat’ group, of smaller size but with analogous rendering of peaches and leaves, illustrated in Robert Kleiner, Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 205; and another sold in Christie’s New York, 21st/22nd March 2013, lot 1360. A further example is also included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 195. Such depictions of nine peaches in jade are also known in utilitarian vessels on scholar’s tables, as seen in a celadon jade waterpot sold at Christie’s London, 5th November 2013, lot 23.
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