George Walter Vincent Smith acquired this piece, together with lot 2902, in 1910 from H.A. Lanthier, a dealer specialising in rare oil paintings, curiosities and works of art based in Madison Square, New York.
A majority of the jades made during the Qianlong reign were in imitation of archaic ritual bronzes of the Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties, as the Qianlong Emperor had a deep interest in Chinese antiquities. Some of these jade examples were more faithfully copied, whilst others were slightly modified to suit prevailing taste of the Qing court. The petals and elephant heads on the present vase, for example, are more likely Qing adaptations to provide auspicious meanings to the vase. For instance, the combination of an elephant and a vase conveys the rebus taiping youxiang, ‘Peaceful times’ or ‘When there is peace, there are signs’. Compare a yellow jade vase and cover carved with archaistic scrolls and similar elephant-head handles, also dating to the Qianlong period, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30 May 2012, lot 3956.