Ritual | Vessel

The themes of this exhibition are archaic jade ritual objects and vessels from later periods, many with designs based on archaic examples. We continue to focus on jades whose colours have been altered
over time, from the simple jet-black huang (no. 1) from the Xiajiadian Xiaceng Culture, (c. 2200–1000 BCE) to more intricately decorated pieces such as the unusually small but gloriously coloured disc with bird designs (no. 11) from the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE–8 CE) which relates very closely to larger examples previously in the collections of C. F. Wu and Songzhutang. The larger of the two Qijia Culture (2200–1600 BCE) black jade congs (no. 8) is impressive in size, its opaque chalky-white patches caused by burial contrast sharply to the stone’s natural tones. The colours of the Western Zhou dynasty (1100–771 BCE) deep russet and white jade cong (no. 9) is lustrous and vibrant from burial and later handling. Although its carving is most likely added during the Song dynasty (960–1279), it is nevertheless a superb object. It is evident that the shimmering ivory and russet toned Shang dynasty (1600–1100 BCE) high- collared disc (no. 10) was also frequently handled and thus shows a fine patina.

We present three agate vessels from different periods. The meticulously carved Liao dynasty (907–1125) shell box (no. 13) is comparable to small boxes from the same period made in other materials but which have identical hanging gold chains. The rare Song dynasty cup and stand (no. 14) from a Japanese collection follows examples in lacquer, ceramics and metals from this period. Last is the radiant Qianlong period (1736–95) green chalcedony lotus vase (no. 29) with original stand and fitted zitan box. This finely carved object is made from a highly translucent stone in a seldom seen colour.

The Song dynasty zoomorphic bronze flask (no. 15) was inspired by Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE) examples; flasks were a shape that became popularised over the centuries. Its intricately incised carvings are identical in design to those found on lacquerwares from the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). From the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) comes the finely carved white jade hexafoil cup with dragon-handle (no. 16), originally from a French private collection. This form was influenced by Tang dynasty (618–907) metalware bowls which, in turn, were influenced by Sassanian gold and silver objects.

In its inaugural 2001 exhibition, Knapton Rasti Asian Art presented the largest group of imperial Zhengde period (1506-21) blue-and-white ceramics and bronze vessels ever to come on the market. At that time, these were overlooked categories. The pieces that we showed over the years are now in important museums and collections around the world. The Zhengde mark-and-period bronze incense burner (no. 19) in this exhibition is almost identical to the one we handled in 2001. These objects are now widely recognized and far more difficult to find and thus, we are especially pleased to present this piece.

A discreet Ming dynasty (1368–1644) black and dark-grey jade waisted brushpot (no. 20) is of our personal taste. The vessel’s restrained carving allows one to appreciate the naturally coloured stone. From a later period of the Ming dynasty and in contrast to the subtle brushpot is the unusually large pale celadon jade openwork stand (no. 21) with a complicated and profusely carved dragon-and-phoenix design. Although it now supports a rock crystal sphere which is not of the Ming dynasty, such a splendid stand would have been made to display a far more precious object.

Amongst the ivories in this exhibition is a 17th century parfumier (no. 22), unusual as it is based on
bamboo examples associated with this type of object. It is signed by San Song, one of the most revered bamboo carvers during this period who occasionally worked in ivory. We present three Qianlong period objects from the collection of renowned dealer and collector Jules Speelman. The first, an ivory box-and- cover in the form of a finely detailed quail (no. 24) is almost identical to one in the Palace Museum, Beijing. The second is a pair of white quail-form jade box-and-covers (no. 25), smaller in size than average with finely executed details. The third is the skillfully carved spinach-green jade rhyton (no. 30), influenced by earlier examples of this type of drinking vessels which are made from jades and other materials.

The Qianlong period lapis lazuli brushpot (no. 28) comes from a Monégasque collection and was previously exhibited by Knapton Rasti Asian Art in 2011. There seems to be no other recorded brushpots in this material; more common objects worked in lapiz lazuli are mountains and other vessel forms. This splendidly carved example has a bright tone with silver inclusions.