A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong
Lot 298Y
A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal
Qianlong
Sold for £34,850 (US$ 55,859) inc. premium

Lot Details
A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal Qianlong
The Property of a Lady 女士藏品
A rare and finely-carved ivory figure of a lady Immortal
Qianlong
The figure of great delicacy and charm, finely carved steering a raft dressed in flowing robes and covered over the shoulders with a striking feather mantle applied with bright blue kingfisher feathers, the high chignon stained black, the raft formed as a gnarled length of rootwood suspending a double gourd behind the figure and balancing on the other end a vase with lotus flowers and pod, a basket with roses and chrysanthemum and a dish of fruit including peaches, pomegranate, finger citron and plums, the fruit and flowers with traces of blue, green and red stain.
9.5cm (3¾in) high, 12.9cm (5 1/8in) wide

Footnotes

  • Provenance: a Scottish private collection

    清乾隆 象牙雕仙人乘槎

    來源:蘇格蘭私人收藏

    The intricacy and delicacy of the carving and staining on this ivory piece suggest an Imperial provenance. Numerous ivory carvings in Imperial collections are of comparably highly skilled craftsmanship: see, for example, the reticulated fruits and the marine-themed tray illustrated in Masterpieces in Chinese Miniature Crafts in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1971, nos. 28, 29 and 31, and the ivory box, double-gourd and table screen from the Qing Court Collection illustrated in The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum: Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, nos.176, 177 and 179.

    It is however extremely rare to find a piece with delicately applied kingfisher feather to give a vivid, iridescent blue highlight to the ivory. Often used as an embellishment for court headdresses, the feathers were also used to adorn decorative pieces from the small and personal to the magnificent and large: see, for example, the small filigree box illustrated by B.Jackson, Kingfisher blue: Treasures of an Ancient Chinese Art, Berkeley, 2001, p.116-7, and the dramatic ivory-inlaid screen, ibid. p.188-9.

    The female carved on the present lot is very likely to be Ma Gu, a legendary Daoist figure with ancient cultic origins, whose biography appears in the Jin Dynasty text Biographies of the Divine Immortals (Shenxian zhuan) by Ge Hong (283-343). Often depicted as a beautiful maiden with a basket of flowers, she is a symbolic protector of females and is associated with the elixir of life. Compare another carving from bamboo of Ma Gu on a raft with covered jars and a double-gourd from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, no. 61.

    Compare also a silver raft with a female Immortal holding a lotus flower from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, with the seal of Zhu Bishan and dated 1766, illustrated by J.Chapman, The Art of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, no.384.

    Similar carvings were also made in jade; compare a pale green jade carving of a raft and three figures, from the Qing Court Collection, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Jadeware (III), Beijing, 2008, pl.43.
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