A rare Imperially-inscribed pale green and russet jade 'three rams' plaque The jade Ming Dynasty, the inscription dated to renchen year of the Qianlong reign corresponding to 1772 (2)
Lot 6
A rare Imperially-inscribed pale green and russet jade 'three rams' plaque
The jade Ming Dynasty, the inscription dated to renchen year of the Qianlong reign corresponding to 1772
HK$ 800,000 - 1,200,000
US$ 100,000 - 150,000

Lot Details
A rare Imperially-inscribed pale green and russet jade 'three rams' plaque The jade Ming Dynasty, the inscription dated to renchen year of the Qianlong reign corresponding to 1772 (2)
A rare Imperially-inscribed pale green and russet jade 'three rams' plaque
The jade Ming Dynasty, the inscription dated to renchen year of the Qianlong reign corresponding to 1772
The front carved in varying levels of relief with a scene of two reclining rams resting on a rocky ledge next to a standing ram looking up at a gnarled branch of pine issuing from a craggy cliff, the reverse skilfully inscribed with the poem Kai Tai Shuo in regular script and two seals Tai and Pu, the greyish green stone with russet inclusions, box. 6.3cm (2 1/2in) wide (2).

Footnotes

  • 明 青玉雕三陽開泰御題詩擺件
    御題詩乾隆壬辰年(1772)

    Provenance:
    Rolf, 2nd Baron Cunliffe (1899-1963), Honorary Keeper of the Far Eastern Collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and Lady Cunliffe, and thence by descent
    Sold in our London Rooms, 8 November 2012, lot 140

    來源:
    劍橋大學菲茨威廉博物館榮譽館長Cunliffe勳爵(1899-1963)及Cunliffe夫人舊藏,後由家族繼承
    倫敦邦瀚斯,2012年11月8日,拍品編號140

    Rolf Cunliffe began collecting Chinese art when he was a Royal Air Force pilot stationed in London towards the end of World War II. Over the next 20 years, he acquired over one thousand Chinese ceramics, jades and bronzes. At his flat near Grosvenor Square, London, he had to build special storage units for his collection in the bathroom. As his son, the 3rd Baron Cunliffe remembers, 'visiting collectors like the King of Sweden would spend happy hours sitting on the edge of the bath discussing the finer points of a jade rhyton or a Junyao bowl.'

    Rolf Cunliffe勳爵為英格蘭東南部薩里郡Baron Cunliffe 第二代,二戰前曾擔任英國皇家空軍飛行員。二戰後的二十年中,開始收藏中國陶瓷器,古代青銅器、玉器、鼻煙壺,是最具影響力的中國藝術品收藏家之一。他酷愛中國藝術,甚至把藏品放在位於倫敦格羅夫納廣場家裡浴室的保險櫃中。其子第三代勳爵曾回憶:「記得當瑞士國王來拜訪時,他和我父親兩人在浴室裡為討論一件玉杯或鈞窯洗可以坐上整整幾個小時。」

    The Qianlong Emperor is known to have had many of the prized antiques in his collection inscribed with suitable Imperial inscriptions and poems composed by himself on a wide variety of medias including paintings, ceramics and jade, referring to a wide range of subjects. There is no doubt that the emperor deemed the objects worthy of his attention to be elevated by his personal admiration; see for example a Guan incense burner, Southern Song dynasty, from the Sir Percival David Collection, in the British Museum, London, with an inscription composed by the Qianlong Emperor in 1789, stating 'When it was made, this vessel was deemed unfit for sale by the court official. Now it is a treasure of the table, hallowed by the passing of the years. What was only of third quality in ancient times, has now become of the highest value', published by S.Pierson and A.Barnes, A Collector's Vision: Ceramics for the Qianlong Emperor, London, 2002, p.14.

    This elevation is further underlined by the superb well-balanced Qianlong period calligraphy, which in the case of the present lot is contrasted against the more rustic relief carving on the opposite side dating to the Ming dynasty.

    The present jade plaque, modest in size, comfortably fitting in one hand, and demonstrably Ming dynasty in its style of carving, is nearly the antithesis to the more ostentatious Qianlong period carvings. It is easy to imagine how it would have captured the emperor's imagination and interest, and its suitability to be included in one of the 'treasure' boxes, to be taken out and admired on occasion; see for example, a curio box, Qianlong, illustrated in Splendors of the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2010, pp.118-119.

    Importantly, the same inscription is found on a painting of three sheep attributed to the Qianlong Emperor himself, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in Chinese Paintings in the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1981, p.315. This painting was itself inspired by a painting attributed to the Xuande Emperor, and it is therefore perhaps not surprising that the Qianlong Emperor chose to have the same poem inscribed on a Ming dynasty jade plaque suitably carved with the same subject matter.

    Although the carving of this jade appears straightforward at first glance, deeper meanings soon emerge. The image of the sheep or goat, yang 羊, appeared as early as the Han dynasty as a pun for xiang 祥, meaning auspicious or lucky. By the Qing period, the image of sheep had become heavily associated with yang 陽, meaning the sun, and the warm, positive or masculine force in Chinese cosmology. The sheep imagery then developed into three sheep, sanyang 三羊, often with three boys sanyang 三陽, as a reference to the favourable arrival of spring, since the phrase sanyang kaitai 三陽開泰, refers to the period between the winter solstice and the New Year. This is the period when the warm yang energy is said to emerge, as detailed in the ancient Chinese classic Yijing (Book of Changes). These intricate puns are therefore closely related to the late 18th century calligraphy inscribed on the back of the plaque, which is an exegesis on the auspicious meanings of the Book of Changes.

    乾隆皇帝好古敏求,對前朝古物之研究及鑑賞為後朝帝王所不及。乾隆在位時,曾親自考訂文物,投入大量人力、物力、建置清宮典藏。根據《內務府造辦處各作成做活計清檔》中的記載,可知乾隆皇帝經常指定在宮廷所藏陶瓷、玉器以及書畫上刻御題詩。傳世所見乾隆御題詩,內容包羅萬象,但刻在器物上的詩詞通常以吟詠器物或闡述為君之道為目的,這些詩詞不僅可以當作是御覽記號,同時透過對詩內涵的探討,亦能反映乾隆皇帝的鑑賞觀。以陶瓷為例,大部分是歌頌「官窯」所作,相關之例,見大英博物館大衛德基金會有一例青釉爐,著錄於S.Pierson及A.Barnes,《A Collector's Vision: Ceramics for the Qianlong Emperor》,倫敦,2002年,頁14。

    此玉擺件,正面浮雕山石松蔭,樹下三羊,雕刻因勢就形,邊角處打磨圓潤,具有典型的明代玉雕工藝特徵,並於背面御題詩形成對比。此擺件小巧玲瓏,恰容於一掌之中,陳設賞玩皆可。此類小件玉器,於宮中多存放於木製或漆製寶盒中,或陳列於多寶格。台北國立故宮博物院中仍存多件此類多寶格,多用於存放玉器珍玩,見《Splendors of the National Palace Museum》,台北,2010年,頁118-119。

    擺件背面所刻御題詩為乾隆帝壬辰年(1772)新春自製《開泰說》,闡述「三陽開泰」的由來,並論述自己對「泰」的理解,認為一國之君,只有「終日乾乾」,才能達到「安而弗危」、「恆守其泰」之境界。台北國立故宮博物院藏一件清高宗御筆開泰說並仿明宣宗開泰圖,亦調同一首自製詩作為御題,見《故宮博物院藏書畫》,香港,1981年,頁315。

    「三陽開泰」詞意源出於《易經》:「正月為泰卦,三陽生於下」,取其冬去春來,陰消陽長,表示佳運即將開始,是新年吉祥的賀詞。「三陽」取其諧音寫生綿羊三隻。
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