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Jade Sculpture of Paulownia Trees Shading Young Ladies

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Period: Qianlong reign (1736-1795), Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Medium: jade
Date: undated
Dimensions: length: 25 cm, width: 10.8 cm, height: 15.5 cm

A thin layer of brownish-yellow mineral skin covers the white body of the jade. A moon door is ajar in the central part of the sculpture, visually creating two spaces. On one side of the door, leafy paulownia trees grow by artificial rockeries. By the door in the shade of the trees, a young lady holds a fungus in her hand. She is eyeing another girl at the other side of the door, who stands beneath a banana tree holding a treasure vase in her arms. Ornamental garden rocks, stone stools and tables decorate the garden.   At the bottom of the jade is engraved a poem and an inscription both written by the Qianlong Emperor to praise the craftsmanship.   
  The date is early autumn of the kuisi year [1773] of the Qianlong reign. The two seals respectively read "Qian" and "Long".   
  The inscription reads: "Craftsman Wu makes good use of the jade presented by Hetian [a county in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region rich in jade]. The central part was carved out to create a bowl, while the rest of it was fully employed by Wu to make this design. There is no waste of the jade and the artistic work remains natural. Imperially Inscribed."   
  Inspired by the court oil painting Paulownia Trees Shading Young Ladies (Tongyin shinü tu) of the Kangxi period (1662-1722), the artist made good use of the rest of the jade stone, from which a bowl was initially carved. The figures in this sculpture are vividly presented. The design accords with a quotation from the late fifth century theory treatise by Liu Xie (ca. 465-539): "Favorable circumstances consist of taking advantage of an existing tendency."   
  The Jade sculpture of Paulownia Trees Shading Young Ladies exemplifies three-dimensional carvings of the Qing dynasty.

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