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Rhyton en jade sculpté, Chine, dynastie Qing, époque Qianlong, daté 1787 sur un socle en bois, dans sa boite

About the item

Rhyton en jade sculpté de style archaïsant, Longwei Gong\nChine, dynastie Qing, marque Qianlong dingwei yuti, époque Qianlong, inscrit d'un poème impérial daté de l'année dingwei du règne (1787), La pierre céladon et rouille à décor de volutes archaïsantes sur fond de rinceaux à l'évocation d'une queue de dragon, le col souligné d'une frise de grecques surmontant une bande de motifs géométriques archaïsants et une cordelette sculptée, le pourtour intérieur gravé d'un poème impérial et daté Qianlong dingwei yuti, inscrit sur commission de l'empereur Qianlong, l'année dingwei du règne (correspondant à 1787), socle en bois\n17 cm, 6 3/4 in.


The poem inscribed on this vessel is entitled Yong Hetian yu longwei gong (Song for a Hetian Jade Dragon Tail Rhyton) and can be found in the Yuzhi shiji (Poetry Collection by His Majesty), Wuji (Fifth Collection) (Siku quanshu edition), 28:8a-8b. The poem can be translated as follows:

Hetian jade is produced in the Jade River/ Where Mohammedan people dredge it to submit as tribute/ But where they dredge is sometimes unreachable,/ For much in this frontier land is yearly flooded/ A piece occasionally found is indeed a rare gem./ So, more valuable even than Han dynasty jade/ Not entrusted to a common carver for its new design./ The shape chosen was a dragon's tail to cut and polish,/ Since its quality is no less than that of Han dynasty vessels./ It's right high officials with tile inkstones write poems about it,/ Disliking fine wine I abstain, refusing green liquor/ But thrust blossoms in it, charming, to flutter and dance,/ Made in accord with the material, all its beauty is thus fulfilled./ Can I do as well in employing officials, with this as model!

Qianlong dingwei yuti  Inscription by His majesty Qianlong in the year dingwei [1787]

Notes:  "Tile inkstones"—inkstones carved out of ancient, often Han era, roof tiles, which indicate that such high officials have a taste for the elegant antique.  "Green liquor" translates linglu, a green-colored wine which was much prized.  The emperor paraphrases a line in the Mencius: "The [sage-king] Yu disliked fine wine but loved good words."

It is rare to find rhyton cups of this exceptional quality and organic form. The carver has skilfully used the original contours of the stone to create a vessel that shows great respect for the treasured material. Shaped after ancient horn-form vessels, jade rhytons differed from everyday wares. They were held in high esteem not only for the quality of the material but also for the vessel's reference to the past.

Another Hetian jade rhyton with the same inscription in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, is published in James Lin, 'Khotan Jades from the Collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge', Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology, London, 2008, pp 117-122. A closely related example with an engraved poem, from the Paul-Louis Weiller collection, was sold at Drouot, Gros & Delettrez, Paris, 5th April 2011, lot 55; and another commissioned by the Qianlong emperor and inscribed with one of his poems, dated to mid-Spring of 1785, is illustrated in Rene-Yvon Lefebvre d'Argence, Chinese Jades in the Avery Brundage Collection, San Francisco, 1977, pl. LIX. See also a spinach-green jade vessel in the Palace Museum, Beijing, included in Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages. Connoisseurship of Chinese Jades, vol. 11, Hong Kong, 1996, pl. 38; and a white jade example with russet streaks, from the collection of Lady Horlick, included in the exhibition Chinese Sculpture and Works of Art, Eskenazi Ltd., New York, cat. no. 20.

See also a rhyton cup in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in Ming Wilson, Chinese Jades, London, 2004, pl. 35, attributed to the 13th and 14th centuries, which possibly became the prototype copied by Ming and Qing jade carvers. Wilson, ibid., p. 39, notes that there exists a group of similar cups made in subsequent periods, all of which can be traced back to the Victoria and Albert cup. Another early rhyton cup, in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, was included in the exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, cat. no. 309, together with two further examples of cups with stepped foot, cat. nos 31- and 311.

For examples of Ming dynasty rhyton cups, see one carved with a related archaistic motif sold in these rooms, 11th June 2009, lot 260; and another, from the collection of Captain Louis Tissier, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30/31st October 1994, lot 458.


Jade sculptée, socle en bois


Special Exhibition of the Georges Estoppey Collection of Jade, Smithonian Institution, Washington D.C., 15th January-1st March 1942.


17 cm, 6 3/4 in.


Yamanaka & co., inc., New York, 3rd March 1941, (US$ 400).

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.