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Lot 621: OPENWORK PLAQUE WITH DRAGON AND PHOENIX DESIGN.

AMENDED SALE DATE - Charity Auction

by Galerie Zacke Vienna

February 9, 2014

Vienna, Austria

Past Lot
  • OPENWORK PLAQUE WITH DRAGON AND PHOENIX DESIGN.
  • OPENWORK PLAQUE WITH DRAGON AND PHOENIX DESIGN.
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Description: White, slightly greenish jade. China, Early West. Han dynasty, 2nd - 1st cent. BC. 玉鏤空龍鳳形佩-漢代早期, 公元前2世紀-前1世紀 . WIDTH 13,1 CM, STRENGTH UP TO 7,5 MM.
This masterfully carved openwork plaque in white jade stands out as an example of the technical achievements reached in the jade carving tradition during the Han period: it also offers a vivid example of how plastic and fluent the decorative motifs became in this period, almost as if they were painted in the hard nephrite rather than painstakingly engraved in this hard stone. The plaque, which seems to have been carved out of a slab of white jade of a roughly rectangular form, portrays the two most represented animals found on jade decorations crafted during the Eastern Zhou period: the dragon and the phoenix. Here, the two mythical creatures are depicted in a very dynamic manner, almost as if confronting each other. The phoenix is in fact portrayed in profile on one side of the plaque, with its long tail, enriched with scrolls and volutes, forming one of the borders of the object. The phoenix's head is turned towards that of the dragon, also carved in profile, with its menacing jaws open to bite the top of a long and abstract element: this separates the two animals' heads and extends vertically towards the bottom of the plaque where it generates clouds-like scrolls which extend over the body of the dragon and to the top of the plaque. The sinuous tail of the dragon, marked by parallel, slightly twisting grooves, forms the border of the plaque opposite the side occupied by the phoenix. One of the rear legs of the tiger stretches backwards while resting on the dragon's tail, a position which confers a strong sense of dynamism to the overall design. The whole surface of the jade is embellished with minor details engraved in the stone, such as additional volutes and double-incised lines marking the contour of the cloud-like scrolls. The white jade, which recalls the jade of the tiger plaque no. 29, was probably obtained from the Central Asian region of Khotan - which fell under Chinese control during the Han dynasty, thus guaranteeing access to the source of one type of the highest quality jade. Part of the central portion of the plaque is of a creamy white colour, probably due to alteration of the jade, while the head of the phoenix is darker and almost black due to inclusions in the stone. Several plaques in white jade carved in openwork and dating to the Western Han period are known either from archaeological excavations or are housed in public collections. The closest comparable example is found in a jade plaque in the Musée Guimet, Paris, carved with the image of a walking tiger in profile resting on a base made of abstract cloud scrolls, as in the present example: the Guimet plaque is reproduced in many publications, see Hansford, Chinese Carved Jade, fig.60b. A second relevant plaque is in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., (Rawson, Chinese Jade, fig.1 p. 313). A pair of rectangular plaques carved with the motif of a deer-like animal amidst scrolls reminiscent of those seen on the present example was excavated from the tomb of Cao Zhuan at Xianjiahu, Changsha, Hunan Province: they are reproduced in Zhongguo Meishu quanji: Yuqi, no. 180. For very similar cloud scrolls carved on the border of a so-called archer ring, see National Palace Museum, Illustrated Catalogue of Ancient Jade Artifacts, no. 117.
Note: This jade comes from an old Austro-Chinese private collection and has been acquired during the late 1980ies

Eine kraftvoll gearbeitete, in ihrer Form ungewöhnlich entworfene Darstellung. Die Kontur stellt annähernd ein rechtwinkeliges Dreieck dar, wenn auch zwei der Seiten mehr bogig geschwungen sind und nur eine ganz gerade verläuft. Ein Drachenschweif steht auch etwas hervor. Prächtig und groß ausgeführt ist der Drache, den man aufgrund der kompositorischen Dichte nicht sogleich in allen Details wahrnimmt. Die Brust ist elegant gewölbt und der Schweif überlang, bildet mehrere Voluten und ist kanneliert. Ob der Drache Flügel trägt, muß man sich selbst ein Bild machen, denn mehrere Möglichkeiten sind gegeben. Man könnte auch sagen, ein ganzer Wald an Flügel(teilen) bzw. ähnlich Ausgeführtem befindet sich auf seinem Rücken. Der Drache hat sein Maul weitest aufgesperrt und beißt - knapp vor dem Phönixkopf - in etwas hinein, möglicherweise in einen Teil des Schweifes vom Phönix, der Phönix macht es aber auch so. Er ist viel kleiner gestaltet und trägt einen eleganten Schweif vom Kopf. Sein Schwanzgefieder, das bekanntlich weitläufig und prächtig sein kann, ist hier streng stilisiert, wo es aber genau anfängt und aufhört ist ein interessantes Rätselspiel, weil nämlich Verzweigungen in den Drachen übergehen usf. Die vertieft eingeschliffene Zeichnung bietet u. a. kleine Gitterflächen. Altersbedingte Verwitterung und Korrosion ist in Randstellen vorhanden, vor allem im Bereich des Vogelkopfes sowie am Drachenschweif. Im Durchlicht sind diese Stellen rotbraun bis schwarz. Die von Verwitterung unberührten Areale bieten trotz der Stärke sehr gut transluzenten Ton, der fast weiß ist, mit etwas gelblichem bis grünlich blauem Einschlag.

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