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A RARE CELADON AND RUSSET JADE 'QUAIL AND MILLET' BOULDER
QING DYNASTY, YONGZHENG / QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate
150,000250,000
LOT SOLD. 800,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
7
A RARE CELADON AND RUSSET JADE 'QUAIL AND MILLET' BOULDER
QING DYNASTY, YONGZHENG / QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate
150,000250,000
LOT SOLD. 800,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Chinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Florence and Herbert Irving Gift

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New York

A RARE CELADON AND RUSSET JADE 'QUAIL AND MILLET' BOULDER
QING DYNASTY, YONGZHENG / QIANLONG PERIOD
the large ovoid stone deftly carved in high relief on one side with quails in a rocky enclave, three of the birds standing on a flat rock in the lower right corner of the composition pecking at leafing stalks of millet, rockwork rising at a diagonal overhead and serving as a perch for a fourth quail also eating millet, a gnarled tree growing nearby and a waterfall cascading in the deeply carved background, the opposite side carved with a river flowing between karsts, leafing and flowering branches peeking out from the sides of the hills, clouds swirling above, the stone a very pale seafoam green with orange-russet skin reserved for the coloration of the principal decorative features, wood stand (2)
Length 6 1/8  in., 15.5 cm
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Christie’s London, 8th April 1978, lot 148. 
Collection of Floyd and Josephine Segel.
Spink & Son, London, 8th April 1986. 
Collection of Florence (1920-2018) and Herbert (1917-2016) Irving, no. 454.

Literature

Barry Till and Paula Swart, 'Mountain Retreats in Jade', Arts of Asia, July-August 1986, p. 53.

Catalogue Note

Expertly fashioned in multiple layers of relief that suggest receding space, this piece is a remarkable example of a jade mountain carving (yushan). Every detail of the design is carefully executed and the craftsman has successfully captured the different textures of the design elements: from birds and sprays of millet which give the impression of being modeled entirely in the round, to flowing water in the foreground and overhanging rocks. The scene is designed to maximize the use of the entire boulder so as to waste as little of the precious material as possible. The natural russet skin of the jade stone has been cleverly incorporated into the overall design and used to emphasize the birds’ plumage and the dramatic sharpness of the rocks.

The Qianlong Emperor advocated that jade mountains and carved panels should carry the spirit of paintings by famous past masters. It is recorded that a number of classical paintings from the imperial collection were ordered to be reproduced in jade. The motif of quails on this piece is reminiscent of bird-and-flower paintings made in the Song dynasty (960-1279), such as the anonymous hanging scroll Peace and Harmony, depicting quails and millet, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in the Museum’s exhibition China at the Inception of the Second Millennium. Art and Culture of the Sung Dynasty, 960-1279, Taipei, 2000, cat. no. II-6.

Jade mountain carvings were kept in scholars’ studios where they provided a means of inspiration and escape from the regulated life of the court through their sense of ethereality and their subject matter. Quails, in China called anchun, are highly auspicious, since ‘an’ is a homophone of the word for peace. Depictions of quails among ears of millet are symbolic of abundance and express the wish for peace year after year (suisui ping’an).

Jade boulders carved with this motif are highly unusual, and no closely related example appears to have been published. A boulder carved with cranes, in the Sze Tak Tang Collection, was included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 239; one with cranes and deer was sold at Christie’s London, 10th December 1990, lot 215; a boulder with monkeys, in the De An Tang Collection, was included in the exhibition A Romance with Jade, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 56, another was sold at Christie’s London, 6th June 1988, lot 3; and a further example carved with horses, was sold in these rooms, 23rd September 1995, lot 278. See also a much larger spinach-green jade boulder carved with chicks and inscribed with a poem composed by the Qianlong Emperor, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th April 2011, lot 2812.

Chinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Florence and Herbert Irving Gift

|
New York