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VARIOUS PROPERTIES
A FINE WHITE JADE CENSER AND COVER

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A FINE WHITE JADE CENSER AND COVER
QIANLONG

The censer is finely carved in shallow relief with taotie masks against leiwen-ground, divided by a pair of mythical animal-head handles, all raised on a splayed foot, the domed cover similarly decorated with taotie masks and surmounted by an everted finial reticulated with palmettes, each enclosed within a lotus petal, the base bearing an incised four-character Qianlong nianzhi mark
8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm.) across handles

Lot Essay

The Qianlong emperor had a particular penchant for the archaic, commissioning the production of various types of ware in different medium in imitation of ancient ritual vessels. The pure and refined material of white jade offered a challenging yet conducive surface on which to show the virtuoso skill of the carvers in reproducing the highly prized vessels of a bygone era.

The present lot is carved to liken the gui, a Western Zhou comparison of which is in the British Museum, illustrated by J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum Book of Chinese Art, 1992, fig. 34. Lidded examples appear later in the 8th/9th century B.C. Cf. the gui with a bronze lid, dated to the late 9th century, in the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, illustrated by W. Watson, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, 1977, pl. 48b.

The taotie mask which is the carved decoration featured in the present and previous lots, is the principal decorative motif on Shang dynasty ritual vessels. Encompassing a pair of eyes, nose, mouth, ears and horns, the mythical creature, however, cannot be identified as any specific creature and scholars still puzzle over the meaning of the taotie mask and the development of this iconography. The scrolls and designs around the pair of eyes, nevertheless, make a symmetrical motif filling up a narrow frieze, resulting in a versatile design that found popularity from the Shang to Qing dynasties.

(US$45,000-50,000)
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