VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Jade box in the form of 8 geese
FE.57-1983
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This jade piece is a tour de force of intricate carving, and was almost certainly produced from a workshop under imperial patronage. The box is carved from a single block of translucent pale green jade whose original size would have been no smaller than 40cm x 40cm. Then the jade block was carved into a group of eight geese in various positions, some preening, some about to take flight, some entangled amid sinuous waterweeds which are finely carved in openwork. Details of the birds' heads and feathers are incised. The whole piece is divided horizontally into two halves so that the body of each goose is hollowed out to form a small box. The lower half of each body has an internal riser over which the lid fits. The carving is naturalistic, with details of the birds' heads and feathers indicated by incised lines. This object might not have served any practical function, but it would have stunned everyone who set eyes on it. It was a vehicle through which the jade carver showed off his virtuosity. It was also a sure way for the owner to win the esteem of his peers. It is claimed, though without any firm proof, to have come from the collection of Yixin (1833-1898), the first Prince Gong. He was the grandson of the Qianlong emperor and played a prominent role in attempts to modernise the empire in the nineteenth century. He had many foreign contacts and the set of boxes may have been a present from him to one of them.

History of the Object
There is a traditional (but unsubstantiated) provenance for this jade box to the collection of Yixin, first Prince Gong (1833-1898) sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Carved jade 
Measurements
Width 36.2cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Beijing 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
18th Century - 19th Century; 1750-1820 
Function
 
Acquisition
Gift from the estate of the late Mrs.L. F. Palmer 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Victoria and Albert Museum 
Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum 
Credit line
© V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

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