A superbly carved pale green jade 'water-buffalo and boy' group Qianlong

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Lot 41
A superbly carved pale green jade 'water-buffalo and boy' group
Qianlong

Sold for HK$ 2,000,625 (US$ 255,548) inc. premium
A superbly carved pale green jade 'water-buffalo and boy' group
Qianlong
The smoothly-polished stone exquisitely carved in the round as a recumbent buffalo with its head turned to the left gazing at a boy playfully clambering on its back, the boy supporting himself with one hand on the animal's back and the other holding a rope trailing from the animal's nostrils, the ridged horns delicately depicted resting on the finely hollowed ears, the powerful body accentuated by a pronounced spine, the stone of an even pale green tone.
13.7cm (5 1/2in) long.

Footnotes

  • 清乾隆 青白玉雕童子牧牛擺件

    Provenance:
    The Marquis & Marquise de Ganay, Courances, France
    Marchant, London

    Exhibited, Published and Illustrated:
    Marchant, 90th Anniversary Exhibition: Ninety Jades for 90 Years, London, 2015, no.58

    來源:
    法國庫朗塞de Ganay侯爵伉儷舊藏
    倫敦Marchant

    展覽、出版及著錄:
    Marchant,《玉器九十,90週年特展》,倫敦,2015年,編號58

    The present lot is masterfully carved from a single pebble of the evenly-toned jade stone, where the superb craftsmanship of the imperial jade lapidaries is represented in the simple and elegant form, yet skilfully detailed in its naturalistic contours, the ribbed horns, finely incised forelock, undulating dewlap and well detailed legs.

    Compare with a smaller but similarly carved group from the Qing Court collection, illustrated in the Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum, Jade 9 Qing Dynasty, Beijing, p.145, no.135. Another 18th century example with the boy standing beside a recumbent water buffalo and holding one of its horns was included by The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York in the exhibition A Passion for Jade: The Heber Bishop Collection, 2015, no.20, acc.: no.02.18.438.

    Another example of similar subject matter from the Beijing Art Museum, with a boy holding a flute, his hand on the horn of the water buffalo, is illustrated in Gems of Beijing Cultural Relics Series, Jades, Beijing, 2002, p.190, no.221. See also a white jade buffalo and boy, Qianlong, from the collection of Anthony K.W. Cheung, illustrated in Virtuous Treasures, Chinese Jade for the Scholars Table, Hong Kong, 2007, pp.170-171, no.96.

    Early jade carvings are closer in form and function to the imaginary protectors carved in stone, which may be a reflection of jade's traditional association with immortality and spiritual power. It is not until the Song period that jade was more generally used as a material for sculpting the creatures of daily life, and whose use was not restricted to assisting in the afterlife. Such jade carvings tend to have softer, more appealing and realistic features, and often a sense of playfulness such as the present lot.

    As a familiar beast of the fields, the buffalo underpinned rice production and the rural economy. As such it is emblematic of agriculture and spring time, and represents strength, endurance, dedication to hard work, prosperity and tranquillity. It is also used in artistic representation, in particular in Chinese paintings, to evoke a bucolic, idealised existence in the countryside. This in turn feeds into a more mythical or spiritual side to the buffalo, recalling both Buddhist and Daoist concerns with simplicity and retreat, and the founder of Daoism, the philosopher Laozi, who departed from the borders of the known world on a buffalo.

    玉質偏清,質地溫潤,打磨光澤,圓雕一水牛屈膝而臥,回首而望,牛角有凸起,眉、嘴旁邊、耳沿、牛尾以近蹄處均飾陰線刻細毛紋。牛背一小童,身穿馬褂,跣足而坐,右手撫牛背,一缰繩從牛鼻中穿過,小童右手持繩,並將繩一段踩在腳下,繩末端從牛背自然垂下。牛四蹄藏於身下,尾端向左側前擺。玉牛造型注重肌肉表現,尤其是四肢與其相連的胴體肌肉群,肌腱隆起,刻畫生動,充滿力度。

    此件青白玉雕童子牧牛極為生動,不論是臥牛以及小童的胴體刻畫,還是對其毛髮、表情的細節表現都恰如其分,足顯明清以來宮廷玉匠寫實玉雕的嫻熟工藝。參看北京故宮博物院清宮舊藏一件清代青玉童子騎牛,尺寸稍小,但題材與本品類似,著錄於《故宮博物院藏品大系玉器篇9 清》,北京,2011年,頁145,編號135,同件器物,亦可參《故宮博物院藏文物珍品大系:玉器(下)》,上海,2008年,頁180,編號139。紐約大都會博物館藏一件十八世紀青白玉雕童子牧牛,為Heber R. Bishop在1902年捐贈,見《A Passion for Jade: The Heber Bishop Collection》,2015年,編號20,博物館編號02.18.438。

    北京藝術博物館藏一件清代青白玉雕牧童戲牛擺件,亦可資比較,見《北京文物精粹大系:玉器卷》,北京,2002年,頁190,編號221;香港鐘棋偉先生亦藏有一件清乾隆白玉牧牛童子,著錄於許建勳、彭綺雲編,《閣有天珍:中國文房玉雕》,香港大學美術博物館,2007年,頁170-171,編號96。

    中國藝術中表現動物形態的傳統源遠流長,並可一路尋淵追索至周至漢代始盛行之石雕及陶土陪葬佣像。部份佣像更塑造成綿羊、水牛以及家豬的形態,並依中國人視死如生的觀念置於墓中,以祈於往生境界服侍墓主。其餘例子則要數唐代盛行,用以守護墓室的鎮墓獸。為此,羅森曾著書立說,提出陪葬佣像如馬佣,實兼具輔助以及保護亡魂之作用,詳見J.Rawson著,《Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing》,倫敦,1995年 ,頁352。

    早期玉雕之形狀以及用途均與守護神的形態甚為相似,此現象則可能顯示先民將玉石與長生不死及靈界聯系起來。直至宋代,現實題材方成為主流,而非局限於輔助亡魂。此類玉雕多具有較細膩、寫實的特徵,因而更添趣味。

    中國以農立國,牛與中華民族生存與發展的關係密切,自古有不解之緣。在農業發展過程特別是春耕中扮演重要角色,並且是智慧、勤勞、忠誠以及刻苦的象徵。在中國美術史中,牛也常常被賦予宗教或祭祀的色彩。特別在中國繪畫中,常見到牛為神仙道士的坐騎,《史記·老子韓非列傳》中便有對老子與其坐騎青牛的記載。另外,古人認為牛擁有「五行」中土屬性和水屬性的神力。是風調雨順、國泰民安的象徵。五行中講水能生木,所以牛的耕作能促進農作物生長,土又能克水,所以古人們在治水之後,常設置銅牛、鐵牛以鎮水魔,因此牛在中華文明中亦有震懾、守護之象徵。而此類童子牧牛題材,在這些象徵的基礎上,又增添幾分生活情趣。
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A superbly carved pale green jade 'water-buffalo and boy' group Qianlong
A superbly carved pale green jade 'water-buffalo and boy' group Qianlong
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