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AN IMPORTANT AND RARE CELADON JADE CARVING OF AN OWL
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE CELADON JADE CARVING OF AN OWL
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THE PROPERTY OF A HONG KONG PRIVATE COLLECTOR
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE CELADON JADE CARVING OF AN OWL

LATE SHANG DYNASTY, 13TH-11TH CENTURY BC

Details
AN IMPORTANT AND RARE CELADON JADE CARVING OF AN OWL
LATE SHANG DYNASTY, 13TH-11TH CENTURY BC
The jade is finely carved in the round depicting an owl standing on its feet and tail. The back of the head is pierced at angle with two holes connecting to each other and the underside with a drill hole.
1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm.) high, box
Provenance
Acquired in Hong Kong in 1993

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Sibley Ngai
Sibley Ngai

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Lot Essay

The owl is an important and rare motif in Shang dynasty art. It was depicted in round sculptural forms in various media such as jade, marble, and bronze. It was also employed as surface decoration on a small group of important bronzes. A very similar jade owl-form
pendant is in the Xinxiang Museum, Henan province, illustrated in Zhongguo chuanshi yuqi quanji (Compendium of Handed-down Jades in China), vol. 1, p. 120 (fig. 1). Another similar example with spiral-shaped eyes in the S. H. Minkenhof Collection is illustrated by H.F.E. Visser, Asiatic Art in Private Collections of Holland and Belgium, New York, 1952, pl. 60.

There are a number of examples found in archaeological sites of the late Shang capital Anyang. A closely related jade owl of larger size (6.5 cm. high) and with a pair of rounded ears was found in Fuhao’s tomb in Anyang, illustrated in ‘Shang.Western Zhou’, Zhongguo yuqi quanji (Compendium of Chinese Jade), vol. 2, Hebei, 1993, p. 65, no. 82. The Fuhao jade owl also has a drill hole on the underside and two holes on the back of the head. Archaeologist Zheng Zhenxiang suggests that it could have been used as a pendant or a mount. (see ibid., p.247, no. 82) Several other owl-form jade carvings were found in the Fuhao tomb, such as a celadon jade owl with plain surface illustrated in Jades from the Yin Sites at Anyang, Beijing, 1981, fig. 66 (402); two fully-embellished examples illustrated in ibid., figs. 54 and 56 (465); one with ram’s horns illustrated in ibid., fig. 55 (508); and one with a tiger’s head illustrated in ibid., fig. 56 (990). It is important to note that a large marble carving of an owl (34 cm. high) was found in Tomb 1001
in the Shang Kings’ burial ground in the Xibeigang, Anyang, illustrated in A Harvest of New Scholarship, Taipei, 1998, p. 32, no. 15. In the form, particularly the pair of distinctive C-shaped horns, the present jade owl is reminiscent of a pair of large bronze owl-form zun vessels (46.3 cm. high) from Fuhao’s tomb; one of which is illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji: Shang (3) (Compendium of Chinese Bronzes: Shang Dynasty), vol. 3, Beijing, 1997, p. 114, no. 113.

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