Lot 1301: Chinese 353.71 Carat Emerald Carved Chang'e Figure
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 19th century AD. A richly coloured, large, semi-transparent to translucent single crystal of emerald with minor intergrowths of its schist matrix, deeply cut to give full dimension to the carving, with attached white quartz matrix also carved; the carving depicting Chang'e, the Chinese Moon Goddess, standing and robed within an arbour of foliage; at her feet a white quartz rabbit; behind, kneeling attendant axeman or woodsman; at top, a stylised phoenix. See Bonewitz, Dr Ronald Louis, Rocks and Minerals, 2005, pp.292-293 for gemmological information on emerald; see: http://www.mindat.org/min-1375.html for information on emeralds from this region. 353.71 carats, 66 x 41 x 25mm (2 1/2"). Property of an Irish widower, by inheritance; previously acquired from a UK provincial auction, lot 171 (catalogue pages included); the property of the late Suzanne Lucas MBE, FLS; formerly the property of her mother, Mrs Winnifred Craven; acquired Wartski, London, UK, 1946-1947; reputedly acquired in London from a Russian emigr?, 12 March 1934 (Wartski letter included"). Suzanne Lucas MBE, FLS (nee Craven, 1915-2008) was born in India and was a world-renowned artist in the field of superb botanical paintings of fungi; she was the first female President of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers (1980, having been a Member since 1954) and founding President of the Society of Botanical Painters (1985-2004); she was winner of thirteen Royal Horticultural Society (1975-1986) gold medals and a Fellow of the Linnean Society; a copy of an illustration from her two volume published works In Praise of Toadstools is included (the work contained 311 coloured plates of her works); she inherited the carved emerald from her mother, Mrs Winnifred Craven. Her effects were disposed of following her death in a provincial auction sale (photocopy of sale catalogue pages included, listed as lot 171 and illustrated) where the wife of the present vendor, a close personal friend of Suzanne, purchased the piece; a photocopy of her obituary, published in the RHS News, is included; her husband was a senior aide to Charles de Gaulle during his wartime exile in London. Mrs Winnifred Craven (nee Beeby), wife of Arthur Craven of Craven Steelworks, Sheffield, UK (suppliers of railway rolling stock since the 19th century and responsible for much of the material used in the original foundation of the railway system in India); she had a strong interest in books and once owned a bookshop in in Warmingham; she also socialised with famous figures of the day, including Cole Porter and she was apparently present at the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt, by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, in 1923; she purchased the carved emerald from Wartski, the Royal Warrant bearing London jewellers, on 2 February 1946; Winnifred apparently had more than one change of heart over the piece as she sold it back to Wartski on 31 January 1947 and re-purchased it from them again on 23 August 1947, from when she kept it until her death, when it then passed to her daughter Suzanne; accompanied by a brief typescript note on the family connections. Wartski, jewellers of Grafton Street, London, were established in 1865 and today hold Royal Warrants of appointment to Queen Elizabeth II and to HRH the Prince of Wales; they purchased this piece, with five apparently similar pieces, on 12 March 1934, reputedly from a Russian emigr? (possibly someone leaving Russia in the early post Revolution years); a copy of a letter from Wartski dated 7 July 2008 and authenticated by counter signature on 5 June 2016 is included, confirming their original acquisition and the transactions with Winnifred Craven. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is one of the premier gem assessment laboratories in the world; the piece is accompanied by a copy of their GIA Report numbered 17489966, dated 3 September 2008 in which they confirm the species, weight and quality of the piece; the Report notes that 'moderate clarity enhancement is present' to the emerald; a printout of a document explaining the process of emerald enhancement and the degrees by which this process is assessed is included. Dr Ronald Bonewitz, gemologist and author of several works on the subject, has examined the piece and confirms the GIA Report findings; he has determined the original source of the emerald material as being in the Tibet to Pakistan region and, although much of the material from this region travelled south to the famous gem-cutting area of Jaipur, material did travel north and thence, by way of the ancient Silk Road, to China; accompanied by a note from Dr Bonewitz giving information. In Chinese mythology, Chang'e was not a personification of the moon, but its immortal inhabitant. There are several stories about her origin, since she was a very popular and widely worshipped figure through Chinese history and mythology. The best known story tells us that Chang'e was an immortal young maiden working in the palace of Heaven for the Jade Emperor. However, she was later banished to live as a mortal on earth, where she met her husband, a famous archer Houyi. According to a different version of the story, she was already married to Houyi living in the palace of Heaven and were banished together. In both versions, they lived as a married mortal couple on earth after the banishment and found it very difficult. Houyi managed to acquire a small portion of elixir of immortality, but it was not meant for him to drink. There are several versions why Chang'e drank it; in one, she wanted to save it from his husband's enemy, in other she was eager to return to Heaven among other immortals. However, as a banished deity, she was not allowed to live in rich palaces among other immortals so she decided to settle on the moon, where a Jade rabbit became her faithful companion. According to one legend, a woodcutter, Wu Gang, lives on the moon as a punishment, because he offended the gods in his attempt to achieve immortality. Chang'e is still remembered today during the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, which occurs on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. The festival was originally a time to enjoy the successful reaping of rice and wheat with food offerings made in honour of the moon. Today, it is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, still seen as a symbol of harmony and unity. The festival is celebrated with many cultural or regional customs, among others burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e, performing of dragon and lion dances or raising an altar in the open air facing the moon; accompanied by a printout relating the mythology.
Condition Report: Fine condition; tiny chip at top edge.