18th-Century Chinese Scholar’s Mountain

Value (2005) | $30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction

GUEST:
It was handed down in our family. It came down from, I believe, my husband's grandfather brought it back when he was over in Asia. And it was given to us by my mother-in-law. And we've had it probably about 45 years.

APPRAISER:
I see. Well, what struck me about this when you had it in line was, first of all, the color. Normally, these pieces are done in nephrite jade, not malachite. This is a Chinese scholar's mountain. This was done in the 18th century.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
The color is really quite gorgeous here. You see the blue and the green, variegations of the stone throughout. You have a scholar seated here in a grotto, attended by two figures. They're picnicking, and they're heading toward this little pagoda retreat up here.

GUEST:
Oh, okay.

APPRAISER:
If you turn the piece around, you have an ox, which is a symbol of enlightenment, sitting in a grotto on the other side, surrounded by pine trees, which indicate long life.

GUEST:
Oh.

APPRAISER:
This would be made for a Chinese scholar to envision himself in the mountains. You know, most of these scholars worked in quite small dwellings, and they'd like to envision themselves in nature. And so he would put this on his desk as a means to sort of transform him to another world. This object is really quite rare. Normally they're made from jade. This is made of malachite, or copper carbonate, which was actually mined in Russia or in the Siberia area. So it had to be transported a long way in order to get to China. And I understand you have a label on the underside that was put on...

GUEST:
Yes, we do. By my mother-in-law, to what it was, where it came from.

APPRAISER:
Don't take that label off, because it's your mother-in-law's handwriting, which indicates the name of the person who gave it to her and also perhaps the time frame. Provenance is really important in objects like this.

GUEST:
It is? Okay.

APPRAISER:
Because in China today, these stones, which are highly coveted, are being reproduced in large quantities. If you would ever want to sell it, that accompanying provenance would really enhance the value of the object. I was really struck when I saw it in line. This object would bring between $30,000 and $50,000 at auction.

GUEST:
Oh. Okay. That I didn't know.

APPRAISER:
It's an extraordinary piece.

GUEST:
Thank you.

APPRAISER:
Absolutely a terrific find. Now, don't clean it.

GUEST:
That's... I was hoping you would say the opposite.

APPRAISER:
You can actually clean it with a fine brush.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
But no water, no oil...

GUEST:
No water?

APPRAISER:
No, no substances. Just sort of brush it off from time to time.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Also, the base is actually a replacement base. It would have had a much more elaborate stand.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
So you have a wonderful object here.

GUEST:
Thank you so much.

APPRAISER:
It's just, I mean, I couldn't believe it when I saw it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Bonhams, San Francisco
San Francisco, California
Appraised value (2005)
$30,000 Auction$50,000 Auction
Event
Providence, RI (June 18, 2005)
Period
18th Century
Form
Sculpture

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