Mid Qing dynasty, Suzhou, signed Zhiting The oval plaque intricately worked in low relief on one side with two elderly figures standing on a terrace ahead of a pavilion hidden in ruyi-head clouds, the reverse with an inscription followed by the signature Zhi Ting, surrounded by a band of ruyi clouds, the semi-translucent stone of an even white tone with exquisite smooth polish. 4.3cm high.
The inscription literally translates as:
'Adorning colourful garments like the Milky Way, acquiring the jade flute from the Heavenly Palace, Zhiting.'
The current lot is a fine example of the most sought-after jade quality known as yangzhi baiyu or 'mutton-fat' white jade. The rare stone was prized by the Imperial court of the Qing dynasty for its purity and snow-white translucency. Although the name Zhiting is unrecorded in historical texts, based on common stylistic characteristics found on works bearing the same signature, it is generally accepted that he was active in the Qing period in the Suzhou area. The Zhiting School of Suzhou (c.17301860) is considered the most prestigious of all the jade workshops. The master carvers were known to produce the most exquisite jade pieces primarily for the Qianlong Emperor, where they are most fitting for China's greatest art patron.
The signature of Zhiting can be found on a number of published jade plaques and snuff bottles. For example, see two white jade plaques dated to the Kangxi period by Zhiting, illustrated by James C.Y. Watt, Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing, Washington D.C., 1980, pp.215-216, pl.216-217, the former of rectangular shape, worked with two boys seated on a banana leaf, the latter of elongated form decorated in high relief with two dragons, both with inscriptions bearing Zhiting signatures similarly rendered as on the current plaque. See also another white jade plaque worked with a figure of General Sun Ce by Zhiting, dated to the eighteenth century from the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat collection, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 4 April 2012, lot 131. Unlike the cursive style signatures seen on Watt's examples, the plaque bears two raised seals Zhi and ting. See also a white jade plaque from the Pine and Bamboo Hall collection and a yellow jade pendant from the collection of Humphrey K.F. Hui, both illustrated in Virtuous Treasures. Chinese Jades for the Scholar's Table, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, 2008, pp.159 & 165, pl.88 & 93.
For a snuff bottle of comparable quality bearing a Zhiting signature from the Mary and George Bloch collection, worked with similar poetic inscription, see Moss, Graham and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection, Vol.1, Jade, Hong Kong, 1995, p.304, no.122, and sold in these rooms, 25 May 2011, lot 101.
從至今已經出版過的玉佩及鼻煙壺上也可看到「芝亭」的落款，參看James C.Y. Watt所著，《Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing》，華盛頓，1980年，頁215-216，圖版216及217，書中曾出版香港「知柔齋」珍藏兩件白玉佩，其中一件方形佩刻兩小童坐芭蕉葉嬉戲，另一件則浮雕雙龍吐水，兩件都帶有「芝亭」草書落款，其筆鋒於本件玉佩上落款相似，而此兩件玉佩在書中被定為康熙年代製作。另見香港蘇富比2012年4月4日，水松石山房藏文房藝術，拍品131號，所拍出一件清十八世紀白玉題詩「孫策圖」佩，落「芷亭」印款，皆為芝亭所作玉佩。
在鼻煙壺作品中亦可見帶有「芝亭」款的作品，例如瑪麗及莊智博收藏中一件白玉帶皮松鹿同春鼻煙壺，其背面落款於本玉佩所見相差無幾，參見莫士撝, Victor Graham 及曾嘉寶著，《A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Mary and George Bloch Collection 》，第1冊，頁304，編號122，後於香港邦瀚斯拍出，2011年5月25日，瑪麗及莊智博珍藏鼻煙壺：第三部分，拍品編號101。另見香港松竹堂藏一件清康熙白玉佩及另一件徐建勳藏明/清康熙黃玉佩，《閣有天珍：中國文房玉雕》，香港大學美術博物館，2008年，頁159，165，編號88，93。
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