Chinese jade brush washer carved in high relief with nine dragons of different sizes writhing amongst ruyi-head clouds in pursuit of flaming pearls above a swirling wave base with crested waves.

The stone white with natural markings.

4 7/8 inches, 12.3 cm wide; 2 15/16 inches, 7.5 cm high.

Early Qing dynasty, Kangxi, circa 1700.


Natural flaws used.

Provenance & Additional Information

  • Formerly in the collection of Sir Desmond Cochrane, Bt.
  • Sold by Christie’s London in their auction of Fine Chinese Jades and Snuff Bottles, 26th January 1976, lot 182, p. 33, pl. 27.
  • The inspiration for this brush washer is the massive Yuan dynasty jade wine vessel in the Round Fort, Beijing, probably the one mentioned by Yuan writers as one of the wonders of the Mongol Court and illustrated by S. Howard Hansford in Chinese Carved Jades, pl. 78.
  • A similar brush washer, in The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, dated to the late Ming dynasty is illustrated by James C. S. Lin in The Immortal Stone, Chinese Jades from the Neolithic period to the twentieth century, Cat. no. 53, p. 62; another in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, dated to the Qianlong period, inventory no. Guyu 2963, is illustrated by Huei-chong Tsao, Marie-Catherine Ray and Sophie Makariou in the exhibition of Jade from Emperors to Art Deco at the Musée Guimet, 2016, cat. no. 124, pp. 148/9; another example described as the Santa Marina brush washer was included by Marchant in their 80th anniversary exhibition of Chinese Jades from Han to Qing, 2005, no. 17, pp. 24/5; an example dated to Kangxi in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, is illustrated by Stanley Charles Nott in Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, pl. CI.
  • A larger Ming brush washer dated to the 15th century in the Hong Kong Museum of Art is illustrated by James C. Y. Watt in Chinese Jades from Han to Ch’ing, 1980, no. 111, pp. 134/5; another Ming example in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco is illustrated by René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé in Chinese Jades in the Avery Brundage Collection, pl. XL, pp. 94/5.
  • The dragon, long, is the symbol of the emperor. Nine dragons are particularly associated with the imperial court and the emperor himself as his robes were decorated with nine dragons. The expression yi long jiu zi ge zi bie means “the dragon has nine sons, each one (good at) different thing” and is commonly expressed to newly-weds as a wish for talented sons.