8. A pale celadon jade immortals and 'shou' character cup

The stoutly carved cup is of inverted bell shape supported on a short straight foot of square-cut section. One side is carved in relief with a stylized shou character, flanked by two lively figures in the round beside rockwork. The figure to the left has a long beard, hair dressed in topknots, and holds a flywhisk in his raised left hand, a book on his raised knee and has a deer by his side, while the figure to the right is beardless and wears a cloth cap, with a crane by his side. On the opposite side of the cup, similarly carved in the round, is a dancing figure with a pointed beard and hair secured with a scholar’s scrolled pin. The stone is of light celadon colour with some brownish suffusion.

Bonhams Knightsbridge, 11th May 2015, lot 319
Acquired in Hong Kong in 1958

No jade libation cup with handles carved in the round in the form of immortals appears to have been published. Related libation cups featuring boy- or animal-shaped handles were popular, however. An excavated example of the former, from a Ming tomb, is an octagonal cup with three playing boys, exhibited in the Changsha Museum exhibition in 2018-2019 and illustrated in the catalogue, 金辉玉蕴南京出土宋明金银玉 器展 “Luxurious Gold and Graceful Jade: Gold, Silver and Jade Wares Excavated in Nanjing of Song and Ming Dynasties”; while a cup with different handles, one a dragon and one a boy, is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated to the 12th/13th century, illustrated in Chinese Jades, fig. 40, p. 43.

The identification of the three figures here is not clear. They exhibit some of the attributes of the Three Star Gods, Fuxing, Luxing and Shouxing, but other characteristics seem more appropriate to representatives of the Eight Immortals. The auspicious wishes conveyed to the drinker from the cup are not in doubt, however, and are confirmed by the prominent shou character, conferring longevity.

Dimensions: Width: 14 cm, 5 ½ inches

Date: Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

Stock No. 2106

Price: On Request