An exceptionally rare white jade mythical bird carving Han Dynasty

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 107
An exceptionally rare white jade mythical bird carving
Han Dynasty

Sold for HK$ 2,188,125 (US$ 278,750) inc. premium
An exceptionally rare white jade mythical bird carving
Han Dynasty
Skilfully carved in the form of a single-horned bird, probably a jiu, with a short incurved beak, the head turned back feeding its young carved in high relief on its back, with two further chicks carved near its right wing and tail, its plumage marked with fine incisions and its claws neatly tucked beneath, the stone of white translucent tone with yellow veins to the young bird's beak. 5.5cm (2 1/6in) long.

Footnotes

  • 漢 白玉雕神鳥

    The present lot is an exceptional example of an early jade carving representing the pinnacle of Han dynasty jade craftsmanship. This superbly carved bird is remarkable in two aspects: the dynamic design of the bird feeding and carrying its young combined with the attention to naturalistic details in the rendering of the bird.

    The single-horned mythical bird which can be identified as a jiu or turtledove, is more typically represented in the carvings of staff finials from the Mid-Western Han to the Eastern Han period; for two examples in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, see Art in Quest of Heaven and Truth: Chinese Jades through the Ages, Taipei, 2012, pp.38 and 75, nos.3-3-36 and 5-4-7. The author further notes that often in the carving of jade animals, the artisans used tiny solid ting drills to make small and round cavities along the curves, enhancing overall stronger visual effects to the jade carving. These features can also be seen on the present lot, such as the tiny round marks along the neck. A further example of a jade turtledove staff final is illustrated by T.Shu-ping in One Hundred Jades from the Lantien Shanfang Collection, Taipei, 1995, p.266, pl.90.

    In Chinese legend, Liu Bang (cica 256-195BC), emperor Gaozu of the Han dynasty, was once assisted by a divine turtledove to escape from his arch-rival Xiang Yu (232–202BC), and became a symbol of benevolent rule and heavenly protection. Staffs or swords with jade mythical bird finials were also recorded in Han dynasty literature as special gifts given to the elders of the aristocracy to manifest benevolent and imperial protection. See a white jade sword pommel in the form of a mythical eagle, Western Han dynasty, excavated from a tomb at Longgangsi, Shaanxi Province, illustrated by Gu Fang, The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China, vol.14, Shaanxi, Beijing, 2005, p.149.

    It is much rarer to find jade mythical birds carved in the round as the present lot. See a related white jade mythical bird, Western Han dynasty, excavated from the tomb of the emperor Yuan of Han in Xianyang, Shaanxi Province, illustrated in ibid., p.160; see also a jade mythical eagle, Han dynasty, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated in ibid., p.75, no.5-4-8; a further jade turtledove, Han dynasty, but of a smaller head to body proportion, is illustrated in the Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 4 Han, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Beijing, 2011, p.182, no.238.

    The present lot is also remarkable for its naturalistic representation of the adult bird carrying its chicks. See, however, a related example of a turquoise carving of a bird feeding its young, Eastern Han dynasty, which was excavated in 1970 in the M1 of Shangshan in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, now in the Nanjing Museum.

    白玉質,瑩白脂潤,圓雕瑞鳥負雛,鳥尖喙,粗眉,圓目,貓耳,獨角貼於腦後,雙翼微展,背負三雛,一雛與大鳥兩喙相接,旁邊一雛回首,一雛靠尾部,尾羽五根,略微散開,底部淺浮雕腿爪,爪粗壯有力。飾件細部琢磨精細,皆以細薄砣刀陰刻而成,眉毛細密,背羽舒朗,肩翎如鱗, 翅羽銳利,尾羽圓潤, 腿毛腳趾亦纖毫不爽。

    此鳥或為鳩。漢代鳩鷹不分,因時轉換,東漢《大戴禮記》:「鷹則為鳩。鷹也者,其殺之時也。鳩也者,非其殺之時也。」《禮記》亦有「鳩化為鷹,然後設罻羅。」漢代崇拜鳩大概還是因為「鳩者,不噎之鳥」(《後漢書·禮儀中》)。漢代年七十以上者由官方授予王杖,杖首便是鳩鳥,俗稱鳩杖,所謂「鳩杖扶老,衣食百口。增添壽考,凶惡不起」(漢代《焦氏易林·萃之》)。由此可見,鳩在漢代有長壽的吉祥寓意。參看台北故宮博物院藏兩件漢代白玉神鳩杖首,其冠羽、玉質和雙翼可特別比較之,見《敬天格物 院藏玉器精華展》,台北,2012年,頁38及75,圖版3-3-36 及5-4-7。藍田山房藏一件玉鳩杖首亦頗似,見鄧淑蘋著,《藍田山房藏於百選》,台北,1995年,頁266,圖版90。

    當然,鳩不單只作杖首,劍柄亦有飾之,如陝西龍崗寺漢墓出土一件西漢鷹形玉劍飾,因為鷹鳩同類,鷹主殺,故作劍飾,其形象、玉質和刀工便和本件拍品頗似,特別是頭部,見古方編,《中國出土玉器全集14·陝西卷》,北京,2005年,頁149。

    獨立圓雕的漢代玉鳩相對少見,咸陽漢元帝渭陵出土數件白玉雕動物飾件,其中一件玉鷹亦可參考之,其雙翼及尾部散開之貌,乃至玉質、少量黃璞皆類本件拍品,見前書,頁160。另見台北故宮博物院藏一件漢代玉神鷹,其整體造型與此件類似,見前書,頁75,圖版5-4-8;北京故宮博物院藏一件漢代玉臥鳩,但頭部比例略小,見《故宮博物院藏品大系玉器編4:漢魏晉南北朝》,北京,2011年,編號238。

    玉雕鳥形飾件中尚未見到背負三雛的例子,唯有1970年江蘇省徐州市上山一號漢墓出土一件東漢綠松石雕子母鴿,其母鴿餵食小鴿之形象與本拍品類似,現藏南京博物院,可資參考。思源堂舊藏一件西漢青玉雕臥鳩可比較之,2016年4月5日,拍品編號29。
Contacts
An exceptionally rare white jade mythical bird carving Han Dynasty
An exceptionally rare white jade mythical bird carving Han Dynasty
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first HK$25,000 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of HK$25,000 up to and including HK$3,500,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of HK$3,500,000 up to and including HK$31,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of HK$31,000,000.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

App