Ivory vase

Ivory vase

Qing dynasty, 19th – 20th century
Height: 8 inches, 20.5 cm

Ivory vase

An ivory vase of baluster form, made in two parts. The vase is supported on a hollowed footrim, the cylindrical body rises up and tapers out slightly at the shoulders. Two loop handles in the form of elephant heads from which two ring handles are suspended protrude from the recessed neck. The neck is carved in shallow relief and the body of the vase is carved in deep relief with a scene of the 18 luohans in a landscape setting. The base is plain and shows the fine texture of the ivory.

 

Elephant ivory was available in China and used for carving from very early times. Since the early 16th century ivory from Africa, India and Southeast Asia was regularly traded to the port of Guangdong (Canton) by Portuguese and Dutch merchants, which helped to establish it as the single most important centre of ivory working in China, supplying both the domestic and export markets.[1] In Buddhism the luohans, or arhats, were freed from the cycle of reincarnation and acted as ‘guardians of the law’. The earliest Chinese representations of luohans can be traced to the 4th century, but it was not until after the 8th century that sinicised dragon-subduing, tiger-taming, or sea-crossing luohans evolved, forming a new group known as the Eighteen Luohans.[2] This ivory vessel, showing Western influence in the dense  composition, combined with the intricate technique of the Guangdong craftsmen, is typical of export products in the late Qing dynasty. A closely comparable covered ivory vase, described as ‘in bronze form’, with similar dense carving and Daoist Immortals in a garden scene is in the Sir Victor Sassoon collection.[3]

Provenance: private collection, UK

  1. Clunas, C. ed., Chinese Export Art and Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1987, p. 96
  2. Welch, P. B. Chinese Art- A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery, Tuttle Publishing, Singapore, p. 197
  3. Kerr, R. Chinese Ivory Carvings – The Sir Victor Sassoon Collection, Scala, London, 2016, no. 467/823, p. 110

牙雕十八羅漢圖賞瓶
清末 十九 – 二十世紀
高:20.5公分
牙雕賞瓶,以大型象牙整雕而成,扁圓柱形,分撇底、擴腹與弧肩三部分,口緣外撇,二象首銜
環透雕於肩側。瓶腹高浮雕各式羅漢計十四位,兼以頸側前後開光內淺浮雕羅漢各二,共計十八
羅漢圖。瓶身以高浮雕多層表現亭台樓閣,羅漢姿態各異,形象生動且表情傳神,或展冊閱讀,
或騎乘神獸遨遊,或執兵器練功,後櫬山林扶疏,雲氣裊繞,仙氣逼人。羅漢為釋迦摩尼得道弟
子,佛經原列十六羅漢,但於宋元時,十八羅漢之說已廣泛流行於中國民間。廣州牙雕多以民間
或宗教人物故事為本製作,本件賞瓶應以觀賞為主要用途。類似賞瓶可見於沙遜爵士收藏。

來源:英國私人收藏。