Jade, that mysterious stone that comes in a range of colours from ice white to spinach green is a passion with Chinese art lovers and Bonhams
next sale of Chinese art on May 15th is a good place to appreciate why this is so. Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house holds Chinese art sales on four continents.
One of the top items in Bonhams sale of Chinese Art is lot 169, estimated to sell for £60,000-80,000. A superb large pale green jade carving of a Buddhist lion and cub, dating from the 18th century. Large jade animal carvings represent some of the finest jade products from the early Qing dynasty, leading to the heights of achievement associated with the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Whilst real animal such as horses and elephants were popular, so too were mythical beasts such as the qilin, or the Buddhist lions as in the present lot.
The depiction here of a parent and cub, amusingly toying with a brocade ball, evokes thoughts of family strength and longevity. Carved from a large, even-toned green stone, the piece maximises the possibilities for the craftsman of the high quality stone newly available in the 18th century from Khotan, resulting in an impressively weighty sculpture which nevertheless retains a purity and playfulness to captivate the viewer.
Another fascinating jade item is lot 159 a rare Imperial pale green jade Buddha with tightly coiled curls, the stone of mottled pale green tone. The estimate is £90,000-120,000. Buddhism flourished in China during the Qing dynasty, and during the Qianlong period in particular. This interest was not merely a pragmatic result of the desire to enfold Tibet more closely into the Chinese realms, but also appears to have stemmed from a genuine enthusiasm exhibited by the Emperor himself.
Buddhist artifacts were consequently produced in large numbers for the Imperial Court, particularly for ceremonial gifts such as for the birthday of the Qianlong Emperor's mother.
The popularity at Court of this form of the Buddha carved in jade is apparent from a number of examples of the highest quality surviving in the Imperial Collections, most notably in the Palace Museum, Beijing.
Finally, lot 175 is a rare and fine very pale green Qianlong dynasty jade bowl. It is estimated to sell for £60,000-80,000. The style and quality of this lot embodies much of the celebrated 18th century jade production under the Qianlong Emperor.