Eight Geese Box

18th century (made)
Eight Geese Box thumbnail 1
Eight Geese Box thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This jade piece is a tour de force of intricate carving, almost certainly 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. 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.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Box
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Nephrite jade, carved
Brief Description
Box with lid, carved nephrite jade, China, Qing dynasty, 1700-1800
Physical Description
Nephrite jade box carved as a group of eight geese; some preening, some on the point of taking flight with details of heads and feathers incised, all entangled in water weeds carved in openwork. The piece is divided horizontally to form a group of eight boxes.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 36.2cm
Style
Gallery Label
  • Box in form of eight geese Qing dynasty 1700-1800 Geese mate for life and thus stand for a long marital union. The word for 'box' is pronounced like 'union'. This elaborate object, made out of a single piece of jade, was probably a wedding gift. Carved nephrite jade Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax Museum no. FE.57-1983(2009)
  • BOX, CARVED IN THE SHAPE OF DUCKS AND WATERWEEDS Jade CHINESE; c. 1750-1820 FE.57-1983
Credit line
Gift from the estate of the late Mrs.L. F.Palmer
Object history
From the estate of the late Mrs.L. F.Palmer.



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.



Craig Clunas 08/08/1984: The dating of this piece is influenced by the periodization proposed in Yang Boda, 'Qingdai gongting yuqi', Gugong Bowuguan Yuankan 1982.1.



Craig Clunas 04/09/1989: Compare a four-goose box in a very similar style, Lot 302 in Fine Jade Carvings and Jadeite Jewellery, Christie's Swire HK 25/09/1989. This is likely to be a product of the same workshop.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This jade piece is a tour de force of intricate carving, almost certainly 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. 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.
Bibliographic References
  • Wilson, Ming. Chinese Jades. London: V&A Publications, 2004. p. 57, no. 59
  • Rose Kerr (ed). The T.T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art and Design. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1991. p. 197, no. 91.
  • Rawson, Jessica and Ayers, John. Chinese Jade throughout the Ages, London : Oriental Ceramics Society, 1975no.409
Collection
Accession Number
FE.57-1983

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record createdJanuary 20, 2003
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