A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant Qianlong (2)

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Lot 4
A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant
Qianlong

HK$ 5,000,000 - 8,000,000
US$ 640,000 - 1,000,000
A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant
Qianlong
The remarkable stone of a delicate blue-grey hue streaked with darker marbling and attractive speckles, expertly carved as an exotic elephant standing foursquare and facing forwards the twisted wrinkled trunk sweeping between the pointed tusks towards the left, each ear carefully veined in relief and hollowed through beside the neck, the legs dimpled with heavy naturalistic folds above toes curling under the feet, the belly with a protuding stud, wood stand.
23cm (9in) long (2).

Footnotes

  • 清乾隆 墨玉雕寶象

    Provenance 來源:
    Somerset de Chair (1911-1995)

    The pair to the Somerset de Chair jade elephant was exhibited in the 1935-1936 International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, Catalogue no. 2782 and subsequently bequeathed by the renowned jade collector Oscar Raphael (1874-1941) to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (museum no.O.93-1946). It is interesting to note that Oscar Raphael acquired the Fitzwilliam Museum elephant at Spink & Son Ltd., London, in 1919.

    The Somerset de Chair jade elephant exhibits a remarkable choice of jade stone by the master craftsman, utilising a rare stone of bluish-grey colour with black speckles imitating the natural elephant hide. The figure whilst at first glance may appear simplistic in its roundness is in fact highly complex in the achievement of the broad yet slightly rounded form, the heavy skin folds, the large head flanked by the veined ears, the muscular twisting trunk and sharp tusks, and at the back the short tail flicked to one side, all demonstrating the virtuosity of the carver. The unusual circular stud on the underside may have been used to secure a howdah to the back of the elephant.

    The elephant symbolises prudence, wisdom and strength; when depicted with a vase on its back the symbolism is extended to represent the wish for peace and serenity. Representations of elephants were very popular in the Qing Court, as is evident from imperial works of art depicting elephants in a variety of materials including jade, jadeite and lapis lazuli, cloisonné enamel, ivory and gilt bronze.

    Such elephants were mostly made in pairs and would have flanked the imperial throne as can be seen in Chuimei Ho and B.Bronson, Splendors of China's Forbidden City: the Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong, London, 2004, p.50, where Hu Desheng notes with regard to Emperor Qianlong's Thrones that 'the set usually consists of a throne in the center; a screen at the back; and on either side of the throne, an elephant statue with a vase on its back (symbolizing peace), a standing fan, a luduan unicorn statue, and a vertical censer. This assemblage is commonly referred to as the "throne-room group".'. See also Zheng Xinmiao, Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade, Qing Dynasty, vol.8, Beijing, 2011, no.6.

    Compare also a similar spinach green jade elephant, 18th century, from the collection of Empress Friedrich (1840-1901), the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Schloss Friedrichshof, sold at Sotheby's Zurich, 9-11 December 1997, lot 293 and subsequently with Spink & Son Ltd., London, illustrated in Chinese Jade, 1998, Catalogue no.23. See also a pair of grey-green jade elephants, Qianlong marks and period, from the collection of the Hon. Mary Anna Marten, OBE, Crichel house, acquired from Spink & Son., London, circa 1952, and sold at Woolley and Wallis, Salisbury, on 19 May 2010, lot 349.

    灰玉製作,玉質上佳,油潤肥美。選料碩大,雕一象直立,象首前俯,雙牙外露,象鼻左卷至左前肢,象耳呈葉形狀,四肢有力,肢體皮肉皺褶,體型敦厚。整體雕工俐落,層次豐富,打磨瑩潤光潔,形態栩栩如生,無疑是一件不可多得的上乘之作。

    劍橋菲茨威廉博物館現藏有一尊灰玉寶象,與Somerset de Chair所藏此尊原屬一對,後曾於1935至1936年倫敦舉行之「中國藝術國際展」展出並載於此展覽圖錄,編號2782。此尊原由名玉器藏家Oscar Raphael先生 (1874-1941) 於1919年購自倫敦史賓克,後捐贈予劍橋菲茨威廉博物館,藏品編號O.93-1946。

    Somerset de Chair所藏此尊寶象巧妙地運用含黑色斑紋之灰玉,呈現象皮的天然顏色質感,盡顯玉匠巧思。此象線條精簡流暢、雕工細膩圓潤,象耳帶脈、皮肉皺摺、象鼻扭擰、尾巴微甩;雅緻傳神,鬼斧神功。其肚部下方見一飾鈕,則可能用於固定象轎,使其繫緊於象背上。

    寶象向有審慎、智慧以及力量的象徵;背馱寶瓶則取意「太平有象」、「喜象昇平」。因此寶象此一瑞獸紋飾頗受清宮內廷之鍾愛,成為不少宮廷玉器、掐絲琺瑯器、鎏金銅器、以及青金石及象牙雕刻所用之題材。

    此類工藝品多成雙成對,並陳設於大殿寶座兩側,其例可詳見Chuimei Ho及B.Bronson著《Splendors of China's Forbidden City: the Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong》,倫敦,2004年,頁50。胡德生於此解釋乾隆寶座陳設定制:「寶座置中,後立屏風,兩側設太平有象一對,配以立扇、甪端及香筒。」類似陳設寶象另見於鄭欣淼編《故宮博物院藏品大系:玉器編8》,北京,2011年,圖6。

    維多利亞女王長女腓特烈皇后曾藏有一尊相似之碧玉寶象,於1997年12月9至11日瑞士蘇黎世蘇富比拍賣,拍品編號293。後由史賓克所得,並載於史賓克1998年第23號圖錄《Chinese Jade》。另一對清乾隆帶款灰青玉寶象曾為Mary Anna Marten, OBE所藏,並於2010年5月19日由英國威立士拍賣,拍品編號349。
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A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant Qianlong (2)
A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant Qianlong (2)
A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant Qianlong (2)
A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant Qianlong (2)
A magnificent Imperial bluish-grey jade carving of an elephant Qianlong (2)
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