Saturday, June 1, 2013


In the history of China, the Qianlong Emperor was the greatest collector and patron of Chinese jade. The middle of his illustrious reign and the conquest of Xinjiang marked an important phase in the art of Mughal and Mughal-style jades. It opened the way to increase the importation of these jades which were also used as tribute to the emperor. He admired the fine working of the Mughal jades, especially the thinness and translucency of the jade itself, likening it to “the wings of a cicada”. He devoted more than seventy poems expressing his love of the art.

Chinese jade carvers quickly learned to emulate the Mughal-style of carving and even surpassed the original works, producing fine cups, bowls, plates, vessels and containers embellished with botanical patterns. The chrysanthemum and lotus were an especially popular theme.

These three lidded containers are wonderful examples of the Mughal-style of art in China during the latter half of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. Perfect symmetry is the central feature of this art.

Period: Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911).
Date: Late 18th century.
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Pale celadon with minor brown markings.
Dimensions: H. 11 cm; L. 20 cm; D. 10.5 cm.

The eye-shape of the container is so symmetrical that the lid, which has a recessed edge on the inside, fits perfectly either way. The stone is highly translucent, and the floral decoration of fine curling stems of leaves and flowers covers both the lid and body. The finial is in the form of a chrysanthemum with three rows of petals. The container sits on a narrow foot rim which follows the eye-shape.

Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Date: Late 18th century.
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Yellow with grey/brown bands.
Dimensions: H. 8.5 cm; L. & D. 11.8 cm.

The container is divided into four lobes. Each lobe is carved with a scene in low-relief, depicting trees, birds and animals. The lid and the edge of the container are recessed so as to fit together. Each of the four lobes of the lid are decorated with a framed pattern of a chrysanthemum with stems, leaves and flower buds. The finial is formed by a chrysanthemum carved in the shape of the container. A low foot rim forms the base.

A patch of deep whitening, sometimes referred to as calcification has occurred on a section of the lid, penetrating the jade.  The shape may indicate that something came in close contact with this area causing the severe alteration. Alternatively, it could have been a flaw in the jade which altered.

Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Date: Late 18th century.
Medium: Nephrite jade.
Colour: Yellowish-green.
Dimensions: H.8.2 cm; L. 18 cm; Diameter: 12.5 cm.

The lotus is the inspiration for the design of this beautiful container. It is made up of eight petals which also decorate the finial, base and foot rim. Tendrils with flowers, leaves and buds encircle the lid and body of the container. A handle protrudes from each side, in a geometric angular shape, topped by a ribbed platform. The inside of the bowl and the lid are recessed so as to fit together perfectly.