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A pale green jade stem bowl

A pale green jade stem bowl, 15th century. Sold for HK$ 562,500 (€59,029). Photo Bonhams.

Simply and skilfully carved with gently flaring sides and everted lip, standing on a tall, slightly-spreading hollow stem, the stone of a subtle pale green tone with delicate striations, wood stand. 13.3cm (5 1/4in) diam. (2).

Provenance: Somerset de Chair (1911-1995)

Fine jade vessels such as the present lot were some of the most prized objects collected in the Ming and later periods. Texts, archaeological evidence and sumptuary laws make clear that jade vessels were considered far more precious than gold or other precious metals: Craig Clunas points out that in the sixteenth year of Zhengde (1521), it was decreed that even officials of the first and second ranks were not allowed jade vessels, but only ones of gold: see ‘Regulation of Consumption and the Institution of Correct Morality by the Ming State’, Sinica Leidensia, vol.XXVII, 1993, pp.39-49.

The present bowl is particularly pleasing in its proportions, with a wide, welcoming brim, generously rounded body and elegant foot. In form it recalls the elegant porcelain stem cups of the Yongle and Xuande periods: see for example the anhua decorated tianbai-glazed stem cup, Yongle mark and period, illustrated by J.Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, no.3:1 or the anhua stem cup with underglaze red fruit decoration, Xuande period, ibid., no.4:7.

A stem bowl of similar proportions and jade tone, dated to the early Ming dynasty, from the collection of Gerald Godfrey was included in the exhibition Chinese Jade: The Image from Within, Pacific Asia Museum, 1986, Catalogue, no.75, where it was noted that the particular colour of the jade was known as ‘ox-hair’, presumably referring to the attractive darker hair-like lines running through the stone.

A darker green stem bowl of narrower brim is illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 7: Ming Dynasty, Beijing, 2010, no.213, and another described as ‘greenish-grey’ jade from the collection of Captain Dugald Malcolm was included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, no.344. See also a related stem cup i