清 乾隆 1736-1795 青金石方瓶
Dimensions: 10cm high
– Priestley & Ferraro, London
This delicately carved tool vase is of rectangular form with inverted corners, slightly tapering towards the base, supported on four feet. Thestone of a bright, purple-blue colour suffused with gold flecks and milky-white inclusions, further enhancing the shape of the vase.
In China, lapis lazuli is traditionally symbolic of purity and rarity. During the Qing dynasty, it was known as ‘qingjin shi’ (blue-gold stone). Carvings in lapis lazuli are rare and were reserved for use by the Qing imperial court. There are no records of the use of lapis lazuli before the Qing dynasty, although beads executed in lapis have been excavated dating to the Han dynasty, according to Ming Wilson in ‘The Colour of Stones’, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramics Society 1997-98, vol.62, p.34. This aura of rarity and mystery may be partly due to the inaccessibility of the principle mines, located in the remote Badakhshan region of north-east Afghanistan. The natural smoothness of the stone allowed it to be polished to a high degree, as is the case in this vase, highlighting the brilliant blue colour and the contrasting natural inclusions.