A black and brown jade group of a camel attacked by a badger

宋至明,十三至十四世紀   黑玉駱與獾    

The camel is shown seated with its legs tucked under its body.  The long neck is turned back,  with a well modelled head with small folded ears and closed mouth. The eyes, with long brows, peer back over the small hump at the figure of a small badger which has its forepaws on the haunches of the camel. The badger has a long snout and short ears. The jade is of colour varying from black mottled brown on the front to deep inky black on the reverse. The polish is smooth and unctuous.

From the Von Oetzen Collection
Christie’s, London, 12th May, 2009, lot 66

S. Howard-Hansford, Jade – Essence of Hills and Streams (Johannesburg, 1969), no. D20, p.131

Related camel and badger groups are illustrated in Chinese Jade Animalsnos. 88 and 89.  o.89 has similarities of jade material and style of carving suggesting the same hand or workshop. The authors speculate that the camel and badger motif may derive from the mother and child, but the aggressive attitude of the badger here suggests otherwise. There is a Mongolian fable about a badger that, while chasing a rat, spots a camel and decides to go after that  instead. Of course he fails, and the moral is that though the rat is small, at least it’s catchable. The antiquity of such orally transmitted stories is difficult to establish, but it seems at least possible that the badger and camel motif represents ambition, and that a jade like the present one given as a gift might have been construed as an exhortation to aim high in life.

Dimensions: Length: 6.5 cm, 2 ½ inches

Date: Song to Ming dynasty, 13th to 15th century

Stock No. 1588

Price: On Request