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Subject:Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Philip Liu Sun, Jan 29, 2012 IP: 92.20.10.78

This object was purchased about 7 years ago at a private sale and it has been used as an incense burner since that date (previous owner also used it as an incense burner). However, a few months ago I was prompted to do some research into its’ origin and it has revealed some confusing findings.

My research which was conducted solely by “googling” on the internet threw up some surprises. First, I was able to find a couple of similar images which suggested that the object which was considered as an incense burner and used as one was actually a Han Dynasty pillow. I have posted the link below and you will note that it shows a Han dynasty suit lying on top of a green jade pillow. Unfortunately the image is not sufficiently clear.

From then on, I therefore concentrated my research on Han dynasty carving techniques and discovered that during that period the carving was too good to be associated with this piece. Although I thought that this piece had been carved beautifully, it also had a lot of sloppy work associated with it and not something that one expects from a master carver of the Han period.

As the images submitted had to be resized to meet with the 100kb restriction, I am not sure whether everyone can see the abundance of tool marks left on the object. You will also notice what looks like sawing overcuts on the piercings in the longevity design plus drill mark on the left ear of the first image and the polishing is lacking in many areas. It has always perked my curiosity to know why a carver would go to such lengths to produce such a beautiful carving and yet leave the finished product in such a poor state without finishing it off properly.

It was only a few days ago that I came across a website that gave a brief description of the type of carving one can expect from the Yuan dynasty. I have copied and pasted it here for all to see…… “Yuan Dynasty jade artifacts are creating the creation of large, generally rough carving crazy powerful, multi-use high relief, often leaving the surface drilling of jade and stone roller marks marks, not very particular about polishing The overall look wild and sloppy”. This perfectly describes the carving techniques exhibited by this object. So, does this mean that this object is surely a Yuan dynasty piece??? Any opinions and thoughts on this subject will be very much appreciated.








Link :Han Dynasty Jade Pilliow


Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Ernest Wilhelm Sun, Jan 29, 2012

This is not Jade but a softer stone.The second picture shows a lot of white lines..is that wax or are those scratches in the stone.
Ernest

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Super Sun, Jan 29, 2012

Modern. Probably not jade.

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Philip Liu Tue, Jan 31, 2012

Thank you for your observations.

Ernest……… you are the stone expert and I agree that it does not look like jade. The white lines on the 2nd image are not scratches but carving marks. I do not know what the white substances are but a lot of these white substances appeared after the item was washed in warm water and a bit of washing liquid. Most of it disappeared when vegetable cooking oil was applied by rubbing onto it.

Super……… you could be right that this is a modern piece. Does that mean that my suggestion that this could be a Yuan dynasty object is pure speculation on my part and is without basis. Have I misread the description quoted above as to the Yuan carving style or is the description possibly incorrect?

By the way, during my research, I did find a similar jade pillow for sale at Ebay but this appears clearly to be a reproduction. The link is attached below but you need to scroll down a bit.


URL Title :Reproduction Jade Pillow


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Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Ernest Wilhelm Tue, Jan 31, 2012

Those white marks point to it being a softer stone.. not Jade but a Serpentine.
Ernest

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Philip Liu Thu, Feb 02, 2012

Ernest, thank you ever so much for confirming that it is made of Serpentine. Your opinion is truly valued. Could I also please ask you to hazard a guess as to what stone was used to carve the Han dynasty pillow shown on my first link?

As I understand it, if I am suggesting that the pillow was carved during the period of the Yuan dynasty and that it was imitating a Han dynasty piece, then logically the material used should be similar.

Besides Ernest and Super, I am hoping that other members of the forum will take the trouble to give their opinions especially the tool mark experts like Anita, Bill and a couple of others.

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Ernest Wilhelm Thu, Feb 02, 2012

If those are reproductions, the original would still be made from Nephrite. To copy, it's easier to use a softer stone, like yours and the one on eBay.
Ernest

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Cal Fri, Feb 03, 2012

"It was only a few days ago that I came across a website that gave a brief description of the type of carving one can expect from the Yuan dynasty. I have copied and pasted it here for all to see…… “Yuan Dynasty jade artifacts are creating the creation of large, generally rough carving crazy powerful, multi-use high relief, often leaving the surface drilling of jade and stone roller marks marks, not very particular about polishing The overall look wild and sloppy”"

This sound like wholesaler description of what want to sell.

Is no reason for persons Yuan Dynasty (foreign invaders) era make something imitate something made Han Dynasty for burial.

Is no description your photo of famous jade burial suit for royalty, of item shown as pillow.
Could be modern representation placed by museum for display purpose.

Good luck,
Cal

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Philip Liu Sat, Feb 04, 2012

Hello Cal

Thank you for your viewpoints.

Your comment regarding the wholesaler is interesting and I must admit that I never thought of that. However, it was only today that I have found another website that gives a brief description of Yuan carving style and I have quoted it here……………...

”Jade Song and Yuan times, due to the impact of different cultures, so also reflect the ethnic jade and local characteristics. South carved delicate and neat, vigorous and effective North carving. But on the whole, the total being carved thin lines. Animals generally have the upper and lower parts of the body piercing, and the holes to square the number, the characters facial features are often in the same plane, and the “character eyebrow” dress with a light fine “rice font” characterization. To the Yuan Dynasty carved general rough and powerful drill the surface is often left marks and traces of thallium, as well as the phenomenon of dangerous knives, polishing less stress”.

I am surprise that you do not think that the Yuan people imitated the Han. As I understand it, the Yuan era was one of the first periods when copying of ancestral ritualistic ware was carried out. I think it began as early as the Song dynasty. I think it was because of the respect they had for the ancient skills.

Lastly, I will admit that it did cross my mind that the pillow shown on the travelblog link could be a modern representation. But after some consideration, I dismissed it as being not plausible. In any case, even if it is a modern representation it must have been copied from an original, and if so, where is the original?

Subject:Re: Jade Incense Burner or Jade Pillow
Posted By: Philip Liu Wed, Feb 15, 2012

Alright...............I have just received a reply from a famous auction house that states that this is a carved pillow in the form of a mythical beast dating to late 19th/early 20th century.

This is certainly quite disappointing news but interesting enough for me to do more research on carving techniques and styles during this period. Any information that anyone can provide to help me further my research will be greatly appreciated


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