£3m price expected for Qianlong's jade elephants

Next month, a pair of small, carved elephants is to appear in a Wiltshire auction.

That might not seem like big news. But the rare elephants are exquisitely carved jade pieces which belonged to the Qing dynasty Chinese Emperor Qianlong (pictured), and that makes them very valuable indeed.

Last year the same auction house, Woolley and Wallis, sold a single jade water buffalo for £3.4m, and just last week a jade seal which belonged to the Emperor Qianlong sold for a record breaking $12.2m, illustrating the enormous buying power of Chinese collectors in recent times.

Regular readers will also be reminded of a pair of Chinese parrots which brought 20 times their estimates in a British auction last year - though the materials and time were quite different.

Jade Elephants
(Click to enlarge)

The elephants are 7.5 by 6.5 inches, and would have been placed either side of a throne to represent strength, probably with ornate decorations on their backs.

Qianlong ruled China proper for over 60 years until 1796, and his reign is thought of as a golden age for art and design in Chinese history. The elephants were probably carved in the 1760s or 1770s, according to John Axford, head of Asian Art at the auction house.

The pieces were part of a collection belonging to Mary Allen Martin OBE, a goddaughter to the Queen Mother. Woolley and Wallis' auction takes place in Salisbury, UK on May 13.


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