Chinese large jade carving of a recumbent horse, ma, biting its hind leg, with wide eyes and gently protruding lip, pronounced spine and forelegs neatly tucked underneath, with detailed flowing hairwork to the mane and long tail.

The stone of yellowish celadon with naturalistic brown markings.

7 inches, 17.8 cm long; 3 ? inches, 8.6 cm deep; 4 ½ inches, 11.4 cm high.

Late Ming/early Qing dynasty, 17th/18th century.


Natural markings and flaws.

Provenance & Additional Information

  • Sold by Louis Joseph, 28 Knightsbridge, London, 1960-1985, by repute.
  • A similar horse biting its foot was sold by Sotheby’s London in their auction of Chinese Export Porcelain, Jade Carvings and Other Works of Art, 21st June 1977, The Property of a Gentleman, lot 299, pp. 114/5; another smaller example from the collection of Dr. Ip Yee, was included by Ip Yee in Chinese Jade Carving, an exhibition jointly presented by the Urban Council, Hong Kong, and the Min Chiu Society, organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1983, no. 163, pp. 178/9; another was included by Douglas J. K. Wright Ltd. in their exhibition of A collection of fine jade from the 18th and 19th centuries, 1974, no. 24; another, formerly in the collection of Anthony J. H. du Boulay, was included by Marchant in their 70th anniversary exhibition of Post-Archaic Chinese Jades, 1995, no. 93, p. 66, together with another horse from the same collection, no. 107, p. 74; another small yellow jade horse in a rolling position, from the collection of Constance Margaret Goldney, was included by Marchant in their 85th anniversary exhibition of Chinese Jades from Tang to Qing, 2010, no. 99, pp. 134/5.
  • A slightly larger horse in the British Museum is illustrated by Jessica Rawson in Chinese Jades from the Neolithic to the Qing, no. 26:20, pp. 376/7, where the author notes, “Like the buffalo (26:19) the horse probably belongs to the transition period from the late Ming to the Qing”; another dated to the Ming dynasty, from the collection of Tuyet Nguyet, was included by Humphrey K. F. Hui and Tina Yee-wan Pang in the exhibition of Virtuous Treasures, Chinese Jades for the Scholar’s Table, 2008, no. 102, p. 178; another from the collection of Somerset de Chair is illustrated by Geoffrey Wills in Jade of the East, no. 52, pp. 94/5; a horse of similar size dated to the Qing dynasty, formerly in the collection of Lady Patricia Ramsay is illustrated by Angela McAteer and Colin Sheaf in The Woolf Collection of Chinese Jades, no. 102, p. 222, where the authors also illustrate a pair of large recumbent horses, formerly in the collections of Captain W. M. G. Pollen and Percy R. Levy, no. 101, pp. 220/1; a smaller white jade horse, Qianlong sealmark and period, was included by Liu Yang and Edmund Capon in Translucent World, Chinese Jade from The Forbidden City, an exhibition held at The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2007, no. 147, p. 209; several large jade horses were included by Basil Gray, Jessica Rawson and John Ayers in Chinese Jades Throughout the Ages, an exhibition organised by the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Oriental Ceramic Society, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1975, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 40, 1973-75, nos. 391-394, pp. 118/9, where the authors note, “The outstanding series of carvings of horses and buffaloes assembled here are among the most ambitious and monumental examples of jade ever worked in China; and perhaps all of them once had their place in the pavilions of the various palaces in Peking. The horses in particular are remarkable for their intense observation and their powerful stylisation of artistic form, by means of which the artist has succeeded wonderfully in conveying the alert strength of the animal despite its fundamental attitude of repose”.
  • The horse, ma, is a symbol of speed, persistence and peace and is part of the rebus, ma dao cheng gong, which means immediate success.