The Buchanan-Jardine Bitong
A Magnificent Chinese Imperial Spinach-Green Jade Brush Pot (Bitong), Qing Dynasty, Qianlong Period 1736-95, 14.8cm high, 14.1cm dia.
With thick cylindrical sides finely and deeply carved with scenes of Daoist immortals in a continuous dramatic tree-lined mountain landscape, the ten small figures arranged in four groups, one of a sage with two attendants carrying fruiting branches and a lingzhi sceptre, beneath rocks besides steps leading up the mountain, another of two figures beneath steps leading to a pagoda retreat, the third of a sage holding a staff and a small boy carrying a peach spray, the fourth of two figures on a mountain bridge, looking out over the landscape, the stone of a deep green colour with some paler striations and dark speckling throughout, raised on an elaborate hardwood stand reticulated and carved with peaches, bamboo and chrysanthemum amidst rocks.
The International Exhibition of Chinese Art, The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1935/6 catalogue number 2855.
Sir John William Buchanan-Jardine Bt.
Purchased from Spink & Son in 1952.
Sir John William Buchanan-Jardine (1900-1969), a Baronet, had a distinguished military career and later became the head of Jardine-Matheson. During his time as head of one of the most powerful organisations of the British Empire in the early 20th century, he had access to exceptional Chinese art works through a period of turmoil when many pieces from the Imperial Collection were dispersed. At some time following the 1935 exhibition, the Buchanan-Jardine collection was in turn sold in London.
Another jade brush pot in the National Palace Museum, dating from the Qianlong period has similar dense carving and is illustrated in The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, pp. 172-3, no. 55. See, also, Christie's London 13 May 2008, lot 54 for a larger green jade brush pot dated to the Qianlong period decorated with a rare scene of foreigners and a caparisoned elephant. In a discussion of the large green jade brush pot dated to the 18th century in the collection of Sir Joseph Hotung, Chinese Jade: From the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, London, 1995, p.407, no. 29.18, the author, Jessica Rawson, notes that jade workshops sometimes used conventional painting and printing themes as the basis for their designs. The carver treated the surface of the jade almost like a sheet of paper and used his 'techniques to produce the effects of a painting'.