• Fine Chinese Ceramics and Work auction at Christies

    Sale 7762

    Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    3 November 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 254

    A LARGE SPINACH-GREEN JADE 'IMMORTALS' BOULDER

    18TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A LARGE SPINACH-GREEN JADE 'IMMORTALS' BOULDER
    18TH CENTURY
    Finely carved to one side with an idyllic multi-levelled landscape inhabited by Immortals and attendants and two boatmen in a slow-flowing river, the reverse with eight cranes perched on rockwork and in flight above pine trees
    10¼ in. (26 cm.) wide


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    The decoration on the two sides of this beautifully carved jade mountain depicts contrasting landscapes, both with appropriately Daoist themes. On the front of the piece is a scene with a slow-moving river (indicated by gentle ripples) meandering through a rocky landscape until it narrows and descends as a waterfall. The identification of this landscape as the abode of the immortals is reinforced by the inclusion of pine trees and a peach tree, both of which are symbolic of longevity. Rising above the river is the terrace of a pavilion, on which stand the Star God of Longevity Shoulao and two attendants. Two more immortals are shown approaching the terrace by boat. One in a log boat brings a basket of gifts - possibly birthday gifts, while another in a leaf boat brings his gifts in jars. A third immortal hurries across the bridge accompanied by a servant carrying an offering, and a fourth immortal stands on the rocky path with a servant carrying his gift. A fifth immortal, possibly another depiction of Shoulao, approaches the terrace on a flying bat.

    The word for bat fu provides a rebus for blessings and thus indicates the arrival of blessings. Two deer stand on the rocky paths. The deer is a symbol both of longevity and of an official salary. In addition, because the word for deer is lu, two deer suggest the phrase lulu shunli 'may all the roads be smooth'. The fact that the composition includes Shoulao, a deer and a bat suggests the three Star Gods - Shoulao, the Star God of Longevity, Fuxing the God of Blessings (indicated by the bat), and Luxing the God of Rank and Emolument (indicated by the deer).

    This decoration thus provides a wealth of auspicious images, which would make it a particularly appropriate birthday gift. It would also be an appropriate gift for a married couple, since on the lower right is a wutong or Chinese parasol tree, which provides a rebus for 'together' suggesting that a wish for a husband and wife to enjoy a long life together may be intended. Although a very different landscape is shown on the other side of the jade mountain, the two faces of the mountain share some of their decorative themes.

    On the back is carved a towering craggy mountainside with a rushing cataract tumbling down a deep cleft in the rock. On either side of the waterfall are pine trees. Pine trees are a favourite subject in both the two- and three-dimensional arts in China not only for their aesthetic qualities but for their symbolic meaning. The pine is a symbol of longevity because it is evergreen and lives for a long time. It is also a symbol of nobility and venerability. The rocks on which the pine trees grow are also symbols of longevity. Amongst the rocks and pines eight cranes are depicted. Eight is the most auspicious number, and cranes are also symbolic of longevity, but specifically eight cranes symbolize the Eight Daoist Immortals and suggest the phrase baxian shangshou 'may the Eight immortals bestow longevity upon you'. The combination of cranes (he) and pine (song) suggest the phrase songhe changchun 'may you be granted life as long as that of the pine and crane'. This is a traditional birthday greeting which is appropriate either for one person, or would be appropriate for a husband and wife, since the pine and crane can symbolize not only longevity but also a married couple.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Purchased from William Clayton Ltd., London, on 10 February 1978.