As with the large brushpot in this same collection offered as lot 1518, the present pair of circular plaques is one of the finest white jades carvings of the 18th century Qianlong period. The attractive material is finely polished to a soft, glossy sheen. Jade was admired for its tactile quality and as early as the 9th century and Tang dynasty scholars wrote poems praising its clarity and purity, and allegorizing these qualities with the aspirations of men.
The white jade material chosen to fashion these circular panels is highly translucent, and it is jades of this type that are most desirable among comtemporary collectors. One of the most fascinating aspects of these screens, is not only their large size but also their translucency. Even though each panel measures approximately 1cm. in thickness, when light is passed through the stone it enhances the differing depths of the picturesque landscape scene. The viewer is easily transported into a tranquil place of rivers, flowing alongside lofty mountain, and the subtly wispy clouds above that form the frame-like border. The artist has masterfully captured an ethereal vignette where minute figures are seen to be in deep conversations against a backdrop of a vast and idyllic landscape.
Emperor Qianlong particularly advocated that jade mountains and carved panels should carry the spirit of paintings by famous past masters. It is recorded that a number of classical paintings from the Emperor's own collection were ordered to be reproduced in jades such as the well-known painting entitled, Travellers in the Mountain, by the eminent painter Guan Tong of the Five Dynasties (AD 907-960). Jade landscape carvings of this type was particularly favoured by the Emperor. In one of Qianlong's poems, as discussed in an essay by Yang Boda, cf. Arts of Asia, 'Jade: Emperor Ch'ien Lung's collection in the Palace Museum, Peking', March-April 1992, the Emperor noted in reference to a jade panel:
'This piece of precious jade slab is from Khotan. It is unsuitable for making vessels such as the dragon hu and animal Lei. In order to fully utilise it, it is carved into a panel with the scene of "A Riverside City on a Spring Morning". Imagination is exerted to turn the natural undulation or ruggedness into an appropriate landscape... It takes ten days to carve a tiny bit of water and five days to shape a piece of rock. The crafting is indeed very time-consuming'.
These circular panels are mounted on elaborate wood stands and would have been placed to decorate the side or main tables in the Qing dynasty imperial halls. For a similar example in spinach-green jade see, op. cit., 1991, p. 183, fig. 138.