118
118
AN EXCEPTIONAL IMPERIAL INSCRIBED WHITE JADE RETICULATED 'WULAO TU' BRUSHPOT
QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate
2,000,0003,000,000
JUMP TO LOT
118
AN EXCEPTIONAL IMPERIAL INSCRIBED WHITE JADE RETICULATED 'WULAO TU' BRUSHPOT
QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
Estimate
2,000,0003,000,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art from the Collection of Sir Quo-Wei Lee II

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Hong Kong

AN EXCEPTIONAL IMPERIAL INSCRIBED WHITE JADE RETICULATED 'WULAO TU' BRUSHPOT
QING DYNASTY, QIANLONG PERIOD
the cylindrical body superbly reticulated and worked in various levels of relief portraying a gathering of the Five Elders against jagged rockwork, two depicted conversing with one another, another two portrayed opening a scroll, the scene further rendered with waterfalls as well as gnarled pine, willow and wutong branches issuing from the crevices of the boulders, inscribed to one side with an imperial poem titled the 'Scene of the Five Elders', the lustrous stone of an even white colour with attractive russet inclusions, wood stand
12.8 cm, 5 in.
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Provenance

Collection of Percy D. Krolik.
Sotheby’s London, 24th February 1970, lot 130.

Catalogue Note

Skilfully reticulated, the present brushpot is carved with a continuous scene of the gathering of five elderly gentlemen sheltered by craggy rocks and overhanging trees, complemented by a flowing stream and a lofty pavilion in the background. As such, this brushpot is like a long scroll with a narrative enfolding around the sides, showing the five venerable scholars travelling through the countryside, enjoying various leisurely activities and the hidden delights of forests and streams. It is completed by an imperial poem written in 1766 by the Qianlong Emperor, titled ti Hetian yu wulao tu ('On the Khotan jade depicting the Five Elders'), praising not only the carving of the figures and the mountains, but also a desirable carefree lifestyle (Qing Gaozong yuzhi shiwen quanji [Anthology of imperial Qianlong poems and text], Yuzhi shi san ji [Imperial poetry, vol. 3], juan 57, p. 18 (fig. 1).

The subject commemorates the retirement and friendship of five respected octogenarians in Suiyang, present day Henan province, and is known as the 'Five Elders of Suiyang', after a painting from the Northern Song dynasty. Painted in the early 1050s, it features five aged honourable scholar-officials, including Du Yan, who had attained the rank of prime minister, the highest rank among the five, Zhu Guan, a native of Suiyang, and the Director of the Ministry of War, Bi Shichang, Wang Huan and Feng Ping. The painting was later divided into five parts, now in the collections of three museums in the United States. The colophons, comprising of numerous admiring inscriptions and poems by notable scholars of the Northern Song period, praise the joys of retirement when, free from the formalities and restraints of the court, these old men could indulge in the enjoyment of life. 

A related poem by Zhu Guan, one of the Five Elders, reads 'now with crane-white hair, all (five elders) feel ready to prepare the Taoist's cap. Suddenly arriving among forests and streams, they are able to let themselves go; having thrown away their hair clasps and sashes, they esteem leisure wandering', see Peter C. Sturman, 'In the Realm of Naturalness: Problems of Self-Imaging by the Northern Song Literati', in Maxwell K. Hearn and Judith G. Smith, Arts of the Sung and Yuan, New York, 1996, p. 168. 

For jade brushpots decorated with the same theme, see a slightly larger example of Qianlong mark and period from the De An Tang collection, depicting the Five Elders gathering at a terrace overlooking waves, exhibited in A Romance with Jade from the De An Tang Collection, Palace Museum, Beijing, 2004, cat. no. 13. A further spinach-green jade brushpot from the collection of Robert Napier was sold in our London rooms, 7th November 2018, lot 19. In the introductory essay to the lot, Dr Xu Lin writes, 'In his old age, the Qianlong Emperor yearned for longevity, and this was reflected in the many longevity-themed works of jade carvings produced during his reign' (p. 50). Compare also a white jade boulder of the same subject matter in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, cat. no. 47.

Important Chinese Art from the Collection of Sir Quo-Wei Lee II

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Hong Kong