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Sotheby's Paris to offer Early Chinese Jade and Hardstone Carvings on December 15
A Rare Jade Notched Disk, Xuanji, Neolithic Period to Shang Dynasty. Photo: Sotheby's.

PARIS.- The last sale of the year at Sotheby’s Paris, the Asian Art sale will take place on December 15. The first session will offer at auction a group of early Chinese jade and hardstone carvings including the Collection of Max Loehr. Just after, 114 works from private collectors will be offered at auction.

The majority of the archaic jade and hardstone carvings offered in this sale come from the collection of Prof. Max Loehr (1903-1988), one of the most pre-eminent Western scholars of early Chinese art whose interests and research on Chinese archaic jades, bronzes and classical paintings forming and influencing later scholarship on Chinese art. Many of the examples included in this sale offer a rare insight into the early jade and stone-working cultures of Neolithic and early dynastic China.

A rare jade notched disc, xuanji, dating to the Neolithic or early Shang Period, is one of the highlights of the Loehr group. Beautifully finished, its shape is abstract and modern at the same time yet belongs to a small but distinct group of early jades recovered from Neolithic sites in western and eastern China (lot 33, Est. €15,000 – 25,000*).

Yet another rare Neolithic jade ornament in the form of a horseshoe was acquired by Max Loehr from Yamanaka Shokai in Beijing in 1944. Reputedly from Chifeng, Inner Monglia, it represents a type that is generally associated with the Hongshan culture of northeastern China and may have been used as a headdress or ornament. Other examples are well-represented in Western collections similarly formed in the first half of the 20th century (lot 23, Est. €50,000 – 70,000).

A very large and impressive black jade ceremonial knife-shaped blade also of Neolithic date, is representative of jade-working Neolithic cultures of eastern and western China. It is remarkable for its size and the extreme thinness of the blade suggesting it was made for ceremonial use. Like other examples of long thin jade blades known in Western collections, this piece may have come from a hoard in Shaanxi province discovered in the early part of the 20th century (lot 43, Est. €80,000 – 120,000).

Among the many small animal-shaped jade carvings, two examples stand out. One is small black and white jade figure of a recumbent buffalo, dated to the late Shang period and notable for its elaborate and three-dimensional carving (lot 10, Est. €12,000 – 15,000). The second is a very rare small yellow jade figure of a seated mythical beast. Exquisitely carved and realistically rendered, this small creature resembling a bear but with wings and a prominent horn, seems to have a connection with the mythical winged creatures of the spirit world inhabiting the traditions of jade and stone carvings of the Han and subsequent Six Dynasties period. While it has a close affinity with early jade animals, this charming creature may equally have been made as a copy of an earlier piece in the Song period when the resurgence of a more general interest in antiquity fuelled the appearance of small jade animal carvings (lot 18, Est. €100,000 – 150,000).

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