Ancient Chinese Jade Ceremonial Blade Discovered

A rare archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th - 15th century BC) with important collectors’ labels, inscribed with a translation of the engraved Chinese calligraphy which reads: ‘In the Royal 12th year in the 1st Moon, and the fortunate 1st day of the King whilst staying in the Capital caused to be made this blade of jade. May it be for perpetual use.’
A rare archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th – 15th century BC) with important collectors’ labels, inscribed with a translation of the engraved Chinese calligraphy which reads: ‘In the Royal 12th year in the 1st Moon, and the fortunate 1st day of the King whilst staying in the Capital caused to be made this blade of jade. May it be for perpetual use.’

A rare and important archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th – 15th century BC) has been discovered by Toovey’s specialist, Mark Stonard. This remarkable object formed part of the collection of the late Fred Clark, a gifted and meticulous antiquarian, whose collector’s label it bears.

It is believed that Fred Clark bought it in the years immediately after the Second World War. The blade has an older hand written paper label which offers a translation of the Chinese calligraphy engraved into the jade and also a printed paper segment which reads ‘Beasley Collection’.

It is always the cause of some excitement when an archaic piece surfaces bearing the name of the early 20th century collector Harry Geoffrey Beasley (1882-1939).

Between 1895 and 1939 Beasley put together one of the largest collections of ethnographic material in Britain. The collection was formed of more than 10,000 objects from Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, and across the world. In the years after Beasley’s death in 1939 the majority of the collection was donated to leading British Museums.

The Chinese have always prized jade more highly than gold. This hard translucent stone has, over the centuries, been worked into decorative and ritual objects as well as ceremonial weapons.

Jade was worn by kings and nobles in life and was buried with them, affording the material a high status and associations with immortality.

The Chinese way of life was based on a combination of faith, tradition and ethics which bound families and communities together. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), emphasized the moral responsibility that accompanies authority. Confucius established a school with a radical new principal of accepting students of sufficient intelligence regardless of their background or ability to pay. He combined this belief in meritocracy with a faith in the generous order of a hierarchical society. The hierarchical principles expressed in Confucianism may, perhaps, give some insight into the use of this jade blade. A ruler had a right to obedience and respect but equally had a duty to act justly in the best interests of his subjects. Many academics believe that jade objects like this blade were symbols of office. If this is correct it is probable that blades of this type were used in a similar way to ceremonial jade Kuei tablets of the period. A high ranking courtier would have held the blade to his mouth and spoken through it when addressing the Emperor.

When you hold this ancient ceremonial blade you become aware of the exquisite workmanship employed in its making. The balance and line of the blade work in concert with the patterns in the jade. It has the power to move you and a particular, vital quality to it.

This late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty jade ceremonial blade has just returned from exhibition at the International Asian Art week in London where it attracted much attention and is expected to realise thousands of pounds when it is auctioned at Toovey’s specialist Asian Art sale on Thursday 30th November 2017.

The Coin Collection of the Late Frederick Sydney Clark

Fred Clark (1923-2016)
Fred Clark (1923-2016)

Fred Clark, as he was always known, was born to publicans in South London. Sometime later, the whole family moved to Seaford in East Sussex.

Fred’s greatest passion in life was collecting and, following the family move, he loved nothing more than field-walking in Seaford and on the Peacehaven Downs. These areas were rich in fossils and prehistoric flints. Such was his passion for collecting that he would, on occasions, ride all the way to Suffolk on his BSA Bantam motorbike, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Dr William Allen Sturge and those of his great friend, the collector Dr Hugh Fawcett, who was well-known for his lithic collections.

Lot 892 a Byzantine Empire Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (610-641AD) gold solidus, the obverse with two busts, Constantinople mint.
Lot 892: A Byzantine Empire Heraclius with Heraclius Constantine (610-641AD) gold solidus, the obverse with two busts, Constantinople mint.

Once again the family moved, this time to Woking in Surrey, and in the 1960s Fred decided to open a shop in nearby Guildford selling collectables. These included fossils, minerals, prehistoric tools and coins. His shop was to become very popular with collectors and he continued to trade there until he retired in the mid-1980s.

Following his retirement, he moved to Worthing, where he stayed for many years until he sadly passed away following a short illness.

A Roman Empire Balbinus (238AD) antoninianus, the reverse with clasped hands beneath 'Concordia Augg'.
Lot 807: A Roman Empire Balbinus (238AD) antoninianus, the reverse with clasped hands beneath ‘Concordia Augg’.

Fred Clark was meticulous with recording. Every artefact he found would be written on with a location and his monogram ‘FC’, which remains well-known by academics and collectors to this day.

Fred formed his coin collection predominantly during the 1960s and 1970s.

Coins from Classical Antiquity

The late antiquarian and collector, Fred Clark
The late antiquarian and collector, Fred Clark

A remarkable collection of coins, predominately from Classical Antiquity, have been entered for auction at Toovey’s and is expected to realise tens of thousands of pounds. This single owner collection of coins was formed during the 1960s and 1970s by the late Fred Clark, a gifted and meticulous antiquarian.

Fred rode his BSA Bantham motorcycle all over Suffolk and the South East of England collecting not only coins but fossils and prehistoric flints too.

When his family moved to Woking in Surrey in the 1960s Fred opened a shop in Guildford which became a favourite haunt for collectors.

The study of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome have had a profound influence on Western Civilisation and thinking over millennia. As we look through this remarkable collection it becomes apparent that nearly all the Roman Emperors are represented in the coins. Fred Clark was a gifted classicist.

A Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius, the reverse with Ceres standing left, holding corn ears and a long torch
A Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius, the reverse with Ceres standing left, holding corn ears and a long torch

Toovey’s specialist, Mark Stonard, draws my attention to the Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius. He explains that on the reverse Ceres is depicted standing to the left, holding corn ears and a long torch. Mark says “Hadrian is such a well-known character to us. The natural patination of this bronze sestertius coin and its condition is very good.” There is an accompanying letter from the British Museum, dated 17th July 1970, remarking that this coin is ‘even better than their own example’. The finely penned label written by Fred Clark describes the coin and its history. Mark comments “Fred was meticulous with his recording.”

The coin reminds me that the Emperor Hadrian was a brilliant administrator and travelled the Empire visiting the Provinces and ensuring discipline in the Roman armies which he held in such high regard. Hadrian was also renowned for his love of architecture and building. The Pantheon which he rebuilt in Rome still stands.

Hadrian left his mark in Britain too. The Vallum Hadrian, known today as Hadrian’s Wall, was built around 122AD. It stretched from coast to coast and its ruins can still be seen today.

The British Empire looked to the Classical Antiquity for inspiration in its arts, architecture and objects.

A George IV crown dating from 1821
A George IV crown dating from 1821

This influence is apparent in the George IV crown dated 1821 which depicts the King as an Emperor from antiquity which is in fine condition.

With estimates ranging from the low hundreds into the thousands the collection is expected to realise tens of thousands of pounds. The Fred Clark coin collection will be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 1st November 2017 in the afternoon.

Coins connect us with the procession of human history in a remarkable way and delight in the quality of their aesthetic and manufacture. No wonder that they are a boom market.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.