The combination of riders carrying ceremonial court implements and those wielding weapons imply that the scene is of an imperial outing in the mountain, perhaps for a hunt or simply to enjoy the natural ambiance. A closely related scene with riders bearing the same types of equipment in a forested mountain is carved into a large spinach-green jade brushpot in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, obj. no. B60J29. The same collection also includes a spinach-green jade boulder depicting a hunt scene, wherein a group of riders amble along the path chatting, while others are in hot pursuit of fleeing tigers and deer (obj. no. B60J49). Additional large-format Qing jade carvings illustrating hunt scenes include a dark green jade brushpot in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, published in Masterworks of Chinese Jade in the National Palace Museum, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1969, cat. no. 36; a spinach-green jade brushpot from the National Museum of History, Taiwan, exhibited and published in Jade: Ch'ing Dynasty Treasures from the National Museum of History, Taiwan, National History Museum, Taiwan, 1997, cat. no. 30; a white jade boulder in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, exhibited and published in The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1997, cat. no. 52; and a circular spinach-green jade table screen illustrated in Roger Keverne, Jade, London, 1995, pl. 138.
Beyond the exemplary carving, the quality of the stone itself testifies to the present brushpot’s production in the mid-Qing period. Prior to the 24th year of the Qianlong reign (1760), jade arrived at the imperial court in very small amounts. Yang Boda, in ‘The Glorious Age of Chinese Jade', Jade, London, 1991, p. 146, notes that by the 6th year of the Qianlong reign (1742) only 10 pristine jade objects and 66 jade fragments were in the Imperial Collection. Following the Western campaigns and subsequent access to an abundant supply of uncarved jade, jade carving flourished throughout the empire. The Ruyi guan (Imperial Department for Production) began recruiting skilled jade craftsmen, while at the same time it continued to send uncarved jade to the eight departments under the Imperial court, the most important of which was in Suzhou. Production was strictly controlled and each piece was carefully selected before being displayed at court.
The jade of this brushpot is remarkable for its even white tonality across such a large expanse of stone. The pale color allows light to filter through the material, bringing out the depths of the carving, thereby enhancing the three-dimensionality and vivacity of the scenes depicted. The inherent qualities of the stone, and the rarity of finding such a desirable and sizable block to work from, would undoubtedly have inspired the artisan to maximize the material's potential by carving a grand and complex scene into its surface. Other 18th century white or whitish-celadon jade brushpots intricately carved with figural scenes include an example featuring scholars and attendants at a riverside retreat, in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in the Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 195, pl. 167; an example carved with a Daoist scene, formerly in the collection of Heber Bishop, and now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 02.418.209; another, also from the Bishop Collection, bearing a scene of an immortal surrounded by attendants in a forest setting, sold in these rooms, 16th September 2009, lot 251; an 'Immortals' themed brushpot, formerly in the Kitsen Collection, sold most recently at Christie's New York, 17th September 2008, lot 329; a brushpot depicting sages walking amidst pine trees, most recently sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 7th April 2015, lot 3643; and a brushpot with the 'hundred boys' merrily playing in a garden landscape, from the collection of Robert E. and Katharine Chew Tod, sold in these rooms, 23rd March 2011, lot 612.
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