Palatial Vase 42cm
Suggested Attribution: Late Ming Dynasty (1525-1590)
One of the tallest, 42 cm Hu form vases in the world. Flawless, thin walled celadon color jade. Very rare, perhaps unique scroll-like pictorial art carved in bas relief around the circumference. See artist’s sketch. Vegetation in pictorial narrative may indicate temperate climate and So. Song attribution. Gourd shape seal of the famous Ming collector, Xiang Yuan-bian (Hsiang Yuan-pien) is good evidence to point to a Ming or earlier attribution. Consequently: Ming – Song
One of the tallest, 42 cm., Hu form nephrite jade vases in the world. Flawless, thin walled celadon color jade. Very rare, perhaps unique scroll-like pictorial art carved in bas relief around the circumference. See artist’s sketch.
Perhaps the most extraordinary of all features of this vase are the twelve seal marks in seal script, relief characters, including two of Xiang Yuan-bien, the famous Ming dynasty collector, with one of these in gourd shape format. Qianlong acquired numerous works of art from Xiang’s former collection, and his imperial and most personal seal marks followed. In chronological order after Ming and collector Xiang, there is one Emperor Yongzheng Shiqu baoji, (Yongzheng Treasure of Stony Moat) seal before those of Qianlong. All marks were placed opportunistically within space left vis a vis the pictorial composition on the back (last to unfurl page) side, as with paintings, to record ownership and give honor, thus becoming part of the work of art.
There is only one seal mark on the front face, a Qianlong reign mark on the foot. Qianlong often honored paintings with his seal marks and poems, but far more rarely jade. When these are found on jade, moreover, they are almost always the more common reign mark or the Qianlong Fang-gu (archaism approved) seal mark.
Vegetation in pictorial narrative may indicate temperate climate and So. Song attribution. Gourd shape seal of collector identified as of Ming origin would point to a Ming or earlier attribution. Consequently: Ming – Song
Scroll down for description to continue after 360 deg. rotational video of the body of the vase. The rotation shown on the video follows a right to left unfolding of the Boys at Play narrative in the manner of unfolding a scroll picture. Use video bar icons to start, stop, and enlarge to full screen.
This jade object has the overall shape of a vase and two 3-D elephant heads as ‘handles’. The elephant and vase is a well known Chinese homonymic combination that give a special meaning or message.
“The elephant in China is one of the seven Buddhist Sacred Treasures and symbolizes peace. The combination of an elephant (xiang) and a vase (ping), which can often be found on the elephant’s back, is a reference to peaceful times (taiping youxiang).” (Sotheby’s HK auction 10-08). Also, the rebus ‘tai ping jing xiang’ (A wish for peace),
The extra pictorial, yet highly substantive, ancient reputation of jade as having protective and enduring properties plus the thought provoking nature of an empty, yet intrinsically valuable and full of potential, vessel – add an encompassing framework to the pictorial and sculptural adornment. And all of these give thematic support to celebration of procreation, the joy and vivacity of healthy offspring, the protection of walled gardens with guardian dragon pine, towering Taihu scholar stones, and a pavilion and broad-leaved plants. To some, among the poets and philosophers, perhaps -to those rare few who would have had access to view and education to understand the auspicious message of this palatial vase, there may even have been an unintended message of the totally disproportionate advantages for those born to emperors and the privileged. Perhaps, even, of life’s unfairness overall.
Themes of fertility, fecundity and protection predominate via symbolism. Fecundity – number of boys represented by most auspicious Fengshui number 9, thought to be magic in that it is the highest single digit number and the only number that can be multiplied by any other single digit number and when the two digits of the product are added together the sum is always 9 (i.e. 9 x 3 = 27; 2 + 7 = 9); 9 is also known to represent the dragon and the number of pine roundels, seen figuratively as scales, are ofter the 9 x 9 product 81. The banana plant is another vegetal symbol of fertility, with multiple phallic-shaped fruit on a stalk. And the orifice of the Moon Gate as a Yin symbol of female receptivity as a balance to the Tiahu boulders in the landscaping. The Dragon Pine and the magnificent 3-D elephant heads are the predominant symbols of protection. The elephants with, unique to Chinese art, large Indian style eyes represent strong maternal protection in counterbalance to the great Dragon Pine protection of the father. On a secondary scale are the fertility symbols of the rabbit and the melon presented in context with the singled out first son kneeling behind the melon and the two boys contesting for the rabbit container. The banana plant is also a climate and locale clue in that it would have only grown in the south, therefore pointing to the So. Song capital.
The two elephant heads, in contrast with the pictorial bas relief circling the body, are fully 3-D sculptures with both modeled detail of head mounds, large eyes, and stylization of ears – features unfound all together in other Chinese jades. This vase offers more symbolism and historic (seals) research material than any other, which is probably the reason it was so honored by Qianlong with his highest seals. A hyperlink to a 51 page research document examining in detail the seals, pictorial narrative, symbolism, elephant head sculpture, size comparisons and nephrite quality can be found below. What other jade work of art has the depth and complexity of meaning to stimulate so much relational information?
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