A stunning discovery at Bonhams turns out to be a gift passed between two of the most important statesmen of the late Qing Dynasty, who attempted to modernise China and represented the Qing Dynasty in diplomatic negotiations with Western powers.
A magnificent and important pale green jade mountain, dating from the 18th century, and dedicated by Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong will be the highlight of Bonhams next Chinese Art Sale on May 17th in New Bond Street, London.
Estimated to sell for £400,000 to £600,000, the large jade boulder is carved as a mountain peak in high relief with four sages and an attendant on a narrow ledge above a stream, amidst a mountainous landscape with pine and wutong trees. The reverse side is carved with bare rocky cliffs and pine trees, with a nine character inscription incised on an overhanging precipice with traces of gilt, reading: Jin Feng Gong Qing Wang Chen Li Hong Zhang (Humbly Presented [to] Prince Gong [by] Minister Li Hong Zhang). It comes with its original 19th century carved wooden stand. The artwork stands 14 1/2in (37cm) wide and 7in (18cm) high.
The history of this rare royal gift can be first dated to ownership by: Li Hong Zhang, GCVO (1823-1901), Premier of the Viceroyalty of Zhili, a leading statesman during the late Qing Dynasty who gifted it to Prince Gong, Yixin (1833-1898), formally known as Prince of the First Rank, the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor (reigned 1821-1850) and half brother of the Xianfeng Emperor (reigned 1850-1861), who served as Prince-Regent during the Tongzhi Emperor's reign (1861-1875). The carving was then passed on by descent to his grandson, Prince Gong.
When next heard of it was owned by the renowned Japanese dealers Yamanka & Co., who offered it for sale through the American Art Galleries, New York, on 22 February 1913, as lot 252 in The Remarkable Collection of the Imperial Prince Kung of China. It was subsequently sold at auction in London on 27th May 1963 to an English private collection of important jade carvings, and thence by descent to the current owner.
Asaph Hyman, Director of Bonhams Chinese Art Department, says: "We are delighted to have discovered this historically important work of art, presented by the leading statesman Li Hong Zhang to Prince Gong. This exceptional jade carving not only embodies the superb craftsmanship of the jade carvers of the 18th century, but is a unique representation of the relationship between two of the most important statesmen of the late Qing Dynasty, who attempted to modernise China and represented the Qing Dynasty in diplomatic negotiations with Western powers. The jade mountain was previously treasured in the Prince Gong Palace in Beijing until it was sold by his grandson. It has been cherished by two generations since it was last acquired in 1963."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com