M2972

Standing elephant, xiang, draped with a tasselled cloth, each side with a shou-character medallion on a geometric brocade wancharacter ground, with detailed hairwork to the elephant’s tail, the feet neatly finished on the underside, a boy kneeling on its back holding a branch of flowering prunus, the stone white with slight russet markings.

2 ⅞ inches, 7.3 cm high.

Qianlong, 1736-1795.

• From a private French collection.

• Two similar groups, each with two boys, in the Qing court collection, are illustrated by Zhang Guang Wen in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Jadeware (II), nos. 137 and 138, pp. 178/9; another is illustrated by Yang Boda in A Romance with Jade, from the De An Tang Collection, no. 89, p. 149; another with two boys and a vase on the back of the elephant, is illustrated by Li Jiufang in Zhongguo Yuqi Quanji, ‘Chinese Jade’, Vol. 6, no. 270, p. 187; a further larger example, with a single boy holding a ruyi sceptre, formerly in the Dumas Collection, was included by Marchant in their 75th anniversary exhibition, Post-Archaic Chinese Jades from Private Collections, 2000, no. 87, pp. 106/7.

• The subject qixiang, a boy riding an elephant, forms the rebus, ‘May there be good fortune’, as the word is similar to the pronunciation jixiang, meaning good fortune or auspicious.

• The elephant, xiang, is a symbol of strength, power, prudence and wisdom, and it is sacred to Buddhism. During the Qing dynasty elephants were used as part of a procession to celebrate the emperor’s birthday.

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