A Rare Pair of Qianlong Yellow Jade Bowl to Lead Sotheby’s Jades Sale

Jade has been a highly sought-after Chinese art category in recent auctions. In the coming autumn sales, Sotheby’s is presenting a collection of high-quality jade and amber carvings, including a rare pair of yellow jade bowls from the Qianlong period, estimated at HK$5m - 7m (US$637,050 - 891,870).

An Extremely Rare and Exceptional Pair of Yellow Jade Bowls from the Qianlong period

The present bowls are exceptional for their large size and translucent yellow colouration, which was much favoured by the Qing Court for its association with the imperial colour of yellow. Since the Ming dynasty, yellow jade was recognised by scholars and connoisseurs as one of the most valued variations of nephrite.

This pair of bowls exemplifies the cultural and economic wealth of the 18th century under the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. With the quelling of the Xinjiang rebellions in the 24th year of his reign (1759), raw jade from Xinjiang could be excavated in previously unattainable quantities and was shipped to the imperial palace every spring and autumn. As a result, not only did jade production reach its zenith but it also became the epitome of the Qianlong Emperor’s military achievement of expanding the borders.

A Large White Jade 'Elephant and Vase' Group, Qianlong Period, Qing dynasty

White Jade 'Elephant and Vase' Group, Qianlong Period, Qing dynasty

Also offered at the sale is a white jade ‘elephant and vase’ group from the Qianlong period, which are valued at HK$2.5m - 3.5m (US$318,525 - 445,935). In the Qing dynasty, elephants were associated with the imperial court and very often appeared carrying vases on their backs during processions celebrating the Emperor's birthday. This imagery originates in Buddhism, where the vase represents an offering to the deity being worshipped. In Buddhism, the elephant enjoyed high status, as white elephants symbolise the tamed and strong mind of the practitioner.

It is extremely rare to find elephant and boys carvings of this type whereby the elephant has been hollowed and the vase fashioned as a cover. The motif of children washing an elephant represents happiness and good fortune while a vase on the back of an elephant evokes the rebus taiping youxiang, yutang fugui ('may there be peace and may your noble house be blessed with wealth and honour').

A Large White Jade Archaistic Bronze-Form Vase and Cover, Fanghu, Qing Dynasty, 19th Century

The body is adorned in low relief with a taotie mask

The third top lot of the sale is a large white jade archaistic bronze-form vase and cover, fanghu, Qing dynasty, 19th century. Estimated at HK$2.5m - 4m (US$318,525 - 509,640), this jade vase worked after ancient bronze fanghu vessels, the flattened vase of rectangular section modelled rising from a splayed foot to a broad rounded shoulder and surmounted by a straight neck, each broad side of the body adorned in low relief with a taotie mask against a leiwen ground.

Top three lots

An Extremely Rare and Exceptional Pair of Yellow Jade Bowls
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 3308
Size: 13.5cm
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 22nd May 1985, lot 305.
Estimate: HK$5,000,000 - 7,000,000

A Large White Jade Archaistic Bronze-form Vase and Cover, Fanghu
Qing Dynasty, 19th Century

Lot no.: 3362
Size: 30.5cm
Estimate: HK$2,500,000 - 4,000,000

A Superb and Large White Jade 'Elephant and Vase' Group
Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period

Lot no.: 3318
Size: 16.6cm
Estimate: HK$2,500,000 - 3,500,000

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Important Jades, Ambers and Hardstones from a Distinguished Connoisseur
Lots offered: 66
28 September 2018|10am - 5:30pm
29 - 30 September 2018|10am - 8:30pm
1 - 2 October 2018|10am - 6:30pm
Auction date: 3 October 2018|12:30pm