ƒ: In addition to the regular Buyer’s premium, a c… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF BARBARA GOLDSMITH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Christie's are delighted to offer this fine vase from the collection of Barbara Goldsmith, who acquired it in Japan in 1950. "In 1949, armed with a degree in Fine Arts from Hunter College and a love of Chinese art, Barbara Goldsmith joined the U.S. Army Special Services after seeing a post on a bulletin board for a Recreation Director in Japan. She remained there until 1951 running Army Service Club no. 81, travelling, and doing what she dreamed of doing when she first signed up: collecting a wide assortment of Asian art. She later returned to the U.S., married and raised a son in a house lovingly adorned with her Chinese treasures, and continued a lifelong civil service career. At 87, she has decided to sell portions of her collection as she moves into the next chapter of her life with grace, dignity, and the memories of her time in Asia."


The square vase is exquisitely carved in imitation of the archaic bronze gu shape. The mid-section is elaborately decorated with taotie masks interspersed with flanges, and the flaring neck and spreading base with stylised blades and archaistic scrolls. A Qianlong poem is incised along the interior of the mouth rim. The stone is of a white pale and even tone.

8 in. (20 cm.) high, wood stand
With Yasukawa Art Shop, Yokohama, Japan, 14 October 1950.
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ƒ: In addition to the regular Buyer’s premium, a commission of 5.5% inclusive of VAT of the hammer price will be charged to the buyer. It will be refunded to the Buyer upon proof of export of the lot outside the European Union within the legal time limit. (Please refer to section VAT refunds)
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Fiona Braslau
Fiona Braslau

Lot Essay

The reign of the Qianlong Emperor saw a golden age of Chinese jade carving. On the one hand the emperor took a personal interest in the jade items made for his court and encouraged the jade lapidaries to produce work of higher and higher quality. On the other hand a source of particularly fine jade became available to the Chinese court ateliers when the Kingdom of Yutian came under Chinese suzerainty in 1760. This imperial patronage and the availability of high quality jade resulted in the production of some of the finest jade carvings in China’s long history.

The current exceptional white jade vase is carved in the style of an ancient bronze zun vessel. The lapidary who created this spectacular piece has gone to great lengths to replicate the form of the original bronze fang zun vessel, including the vertical flanges and the low relief decoration of blades, taotie masks and leiwen. The choice of form reflects the passionate interest of the Qianlong Emperor in antiques and his insistence that the imperial ateliers made vessels in archaistic style. A number of Qianlong jade vessels were made in forms inspired by Shang and Zhou bronzes, some of which bear an inscription reading: ’Da Qing Qianlong fanggu (‘Great Qing [dynasty] Qianlong [reign] copying the ancient’).

In the case of the current vessel this archaistic intent is emphasised by the imperial poem inscribed on the interior of the mouth.
This may be translated as reading:

‘Hetian jades are easy to find,
However this superb stone is specifically chosen for this jade square vase due to its natural beauty.
The quality of the archaic jade Zhaohua flute or the bi disc mentioned by Yu Yingzhong are often discussed and debated.
The leiwen decoration is crisp like zhuan script; the monster masks are meticulously rendered.
For questions regarding standards in art appreciation, one must refer to Ao (The Hounds of Lü) from the Shangshu (The Books of Documents).
Imperial inscription by Qianlong, jiawu year [1774]’.

The inscription is followed by two two-character seals reading ‘bide’ and ‘langrun’, which may be translated as ‘measure of virtue’ and ‘clear and unctuous’, respectively. The characters bi and de come from the classic work Liji ('The Book of Rites): ‘Junzi bide yuyu, which may be translated as: ‘the son of a gentleman is more virtuous than jade'. This seal was reserved for imperial Qianlong jades of the finest quality.
The poem is included in Qing Gaozong Yushi Shiwen Quanji, 4 (The Complete Anthology of Imperial Poems of the Qianlong Emperor, volume 4, Zhongguo renmin daxue chubanshe, Beijing, juan 20, p. 15, where it is entitled Hetian baiyu fangping (Hetian white jade square vase).
It is interesting to note the line in the poem which refers to: ‘leiwen decoration is crisp like zhuan script; the monster masks are meticulously rendered’. This is a particularly apt description of the current vase, which has particularly well-defined leiwen (‘thunder pattern’, squared spirals) around the rim and as background to the exceptionally well-carved taotie (monster masks).

It is quite rare to find an inscription carved on the interior mouth of a jade vase, but interestingly a white jade square vase in the collection of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, bears the same inscription as the current vase, also written on the interior (shown on the National Palace Museum website). The Taipei vase also bears, on the exterior, the ‘fanggu’ mark mentioned above. This latter mark also appears on a square jade vase in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Jadeware (III), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, vol. 42, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 133, and also on a square hu lidded jade vase illustrated in, Zhongguo meishu fenlei quanji, Zhongguo yuqiquanji, vol. 6, Qing, 1994, p. 127, pls. 198-199. There is also a longer inscription on the square hu, which is on the exterior. In addition to those jade vases with inscriptions on the interior mouth, there is a small number of ceramic vases, made in archaic bronze form, which have Qianlong inscriptions applied to the inside of the mouth. One such is a Guan ware vase in the collection of Sir Percival David (Acc. No. PDF 23), which has an inscription dated to the equivalent of AD 1785.

A white jade vase of similar form to the current vessel, but without an inscription, from the Rose Loo collection was sold by Christie’s London 12th May 2009, lot 102.

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