Oil Lamp or Pouring Vessel, 14th-17th C AD, 27.9 x 12.7cm
This large, magnificently carved object in the shape of a Central Asian or Middle Eastern oil lamp could have just as well been used for pouring as for an oil and wick lamp, but the resemblance to a lamp is unmistakable. Neither the shape of the piece nor the creatures carved on the handle and lid are of Chinese style. The creatures are, perhaps closer to a Persian Simorgh than a Chinese dragon or feline. And the medium, mottled green nephrite jade with rust like alteration patches also appears to have been from a source outside China; more like green jade used in the Timurid from an unknown source, but definitely not from Xinjiang and the Kunlun Shan. The patches of color and texture alteration to the nephrite occurred before it was carved as the incisions that pass through those areas are clean, clearly cut and unaltered.
The 3-Dimensionally carved creature topping the lid is done in a uniform color of rich green nephrite. The creature’s fangs and claws are skillfully detailed as the strong rounded shoulders appear to push the lower body up to the surface from below. It is a sculptural tour de force surmounting this oil lamp or ceremonial pouring vessel, and it serves as a handle for the lid.
The base of the lid and the body of the vessel is decorated with an incised Greek Fret type pattern and above this fret, on the ‘shoulders’ of the body is an unusual incised pattern of left and right directed diagonal lines juxtaposed as band of triangle or dental motifs, again, more Western than Eastern. And the well hollowed, circular pedestal shaped foot has a beautiful relief carving of encircling lotus leaves, the symbolic design of which was known from Egypt, India and Persia (Lotus actually found a place in Iranian art and architecture as the flower symbolizing the Iranian goddess of water, Anahita enjoying a very important place in Iranian Mythology). The vessel’s shape may have derived from similar objects produced in Iran under the Timurids (1370–1507), while the dental motifs on its shoulders recall India’s contact with Europe under the Mughals (1526–1858). And we all recognize the similarity in the shape of this vessel to Aladdin’s Lamp of the ‘Arabian Nights’. Overall, then, the influences on this object from cultures west of China are apparent.
27.9cm length and 12.7 widths.