Please note that the estimate for this lot should read: HK$160,000-240,000 (US$20,000-30,000)
Jade is undoubtedly the most revered gemstone in China. Its association with China's art, culture and history stretches into their Neolithic past, spanning almost 10,000 years. To date, jade still holds an unparalleled influence in Chinese society and continues to be admired for its physical and semi-mythical qualities which are often imbued with spiritual references.
The term jade actually applies to two very different materials known as nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is indigenous to China and originates from the mountains of Khotan in central Asia. The influx of jadeite to China, on the other hand, started in the late 18th century with the discovery of the previously inaccessible jadeite mines of northern Burma.
Both minerals occur in a large variety of colours and both are very tough materials. These qualities have inspired craftsmen through the ages to produce Chinese jade carvings of the highest qualities. From the Neolithic period to present days, jade carvings have been treasured for their diverse shapes, decoration, skillful craftsmanship and imaginative use of the raw materials. Decorations range from the taotie masks and scrolls of the exquisitely carved jade plaques of the Shang dynasty to the writhing dragons of the Han dynasty and the complex openwork carvings of the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. The delicately carved nephrite box in Lot 2357 is a superb example of the extraordinary craftsmanship in the Qing dynasty. Dating to the late 19th century, the box was later embellished by Cartier in the 1920s.
Although modern technology has greatly advanced the skill of the modern jade carver, inspiration for modern carvings is greatly based on the decorative motifs of the past. Figures of gods such as Guanyin and Milefo (Lots 2604 and 2369) remain popular subjects as well as naturalistic carvings which convey wishes for good fortune or portray a rebus, making use of the names of animals and plants depicted. (Lots 2366 and 2368).
From this vast depository of motifs, Wang Junyi, a young carver from China, has created a beautiful group of modern jade carvings which is a testimony not only to centuries of jade carving skills but also to his very personal interpretation of a universe of taotie masks, dragon and phoenix, salamander and bats emerging from the contrasting qualities and tones of the raw materials.
It is clear from the variety of carvings on offer that jade carving in China today is still an important and vibrant craft. Continuous technical achievement and new waves of inventiveness ensure that the ancient art form of jade carving continues to appeal to the contemporary taste.
Post Lot Text
This jadeite pendant with its naturalistic carving of a praying mantis perched on a spray of leaves, represents the culmination of a more than 4000 year old tradition of hand carved jade. In the nineteenth century, the popularity of Burmese jadeite resulted in the development of a new style of the jade carving in Guangdong and Suzhou, the jade carving centres of China at that time. This new school of carvers fully exploited the toughness, glassy texture and brilliant colour veins of the new material to make pieces like this pendant, with its slender legs and freely moving hoop. Such virtuous carving carried on into the early twentieth century after which machine carved and polished jade began to dominate the market.
cf The Baur Collection Geneva, for a similar jadeite pendant on a linked chain.
Ex-Ionides Collection sold in Spink