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A MUGHAL-STYLE WHITE JADE SHALLOW FOLIATE DISH

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A MUGHAL-STYLE WHITE JADE SHALLOW FOLIATE DISH

QIANLONG (1736-95)

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A MUGHAL-STYLE WHITE JADE SHALLOW FOLIATE DISH Qianlong (1736-95) Very thinly carved as an acanthus with two leafy bud handles at the oval rim, the exterior finely carved in shallow relief with feathery leaves rising from a base of overlapping petals, the slightly mottled and softly polished stone of even pale greyish tone, minute rim chips 8½ in. (21.5 cm.) wide
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Lot Essay

This wonderfully delicate dish demonstrates the remarkable skill of the Chinese lapidaries working in the Mughal style. The jade was carved to exceptional thinness to produce its complex relief decoration, but its polish was notably more Chinese in its tactile finish. The extreme thinness of the stone enables the fine decoration on the exterior of the vessel to be seen on the interior, and vice versa. This near transparency of the stone encouraged the lapidary to carve a beautiful eight-petalled flower in the centre of the interior to complement the eight-petalled flower that forms the base on the exterior of the dish. The result is a subtle interplay of soft and sharp focus floral details on both the inside and outside of the vessel.

The petal arrangement of the base flower of this dish is of concentric layers of petals. This was a favourite decorative device of the Mughal lapidaries, and can be seen on a number of vessels from the imperial collection now preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei (see for example: Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Hindustan Jade in the National Palace Museum, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1983, pp. 138-9, no. 7; pp. 144-5, no. 10; pp. 182-3, no. 29; pp. 226-7, no. 51, and The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Jadeware III, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1995, p. 281, no. 233). The design on the current dish is particularly elegant as the two outer layers of petals are both fluted and overlapped in a gentle s-curve.

The acanthus band carved around the exterior walls of the dish is another favourite decorative theme on 'Mughal' jades and can be seen on a number of the examples preserved in the palace collections. Among the fine jade dishes in the National Palace Museum bearing this design are those illustrated in Catalogue of a Special Exhibition of Hindustan Jade in the National Palace Museum, op. cit., pp. 136-7, no. 6; pp. 140-1, no. 8; pp. 142-3, no. 9; pp. 144-5, no. 10, and pp. 182-3, no. 29. The vertical acanthus leaves are especially effective for the decoration of shallow dishes like the current example and the dish in the National Palace Museum (illustrated ibid., pp. 182-3, no. 29), which was inventoried as being kept in the Qianqing gong (Palace of Heavenly Purity). The leaf and bud handles on the current dish are among the most delicate of all the surviving examples with handles of this type. A serrated-edged leaf rendered in low relief rises from the foot of the vessel to the rim, where it becomes three-dimensional and curves upwards and outwards to give a subtle s-profile. Another serrated leaf rises behind the first echoing its curves in slightly more exaggerated form. A slender stem loops beneath the leaves curling back towards the side of the dish so that the opening bud hanging from the stem rejoins the side of the vessel. This device provides a visually delicate handle, which is in fact remarkably stable. Several bowls and dishes in the National Palace Museum have handles formed by buds descending from a single leaf (see: ibid., pp. 136-7, no. 6; pp, 138-9, no. 7; pp. 142-3, no. 9). One other vessel in the National Palace Museum collection has handles formed of two serrated leaves and a pendant bud. This bowl (illustrated ibid., p. 141, no. 8) has one leaf above and one leaf below each bud, rather than two leaves above as on the current dish, but the style is extremely similar. This National Palace Museum bowl, which was inventoried as being kept in the Qianqing gong, also shares with the current vessel a similar acanthus band around its sides, and has a Qianlong imperial poem inscribed on its exterior, which was composed in AD 1770 and has an archival preface which admires the bowl for being 'paper-thin', a description which could equally apply to the current dish.

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