Metropolitan Museum - Heber R. Bishop Collection Of Jade
( Originally Published 1909 )
Those who visit the magnificent collection of Jade in the " Bishop Hall " at the Museum will agree that the best way to consider this wonderful array of precious specimens is as a unique and altogether separate subject. It might have been included in the Chapter on Sculpture, or again the Chapter on Gems could have contained it — its interest partakes of both.
Jadeite and Nephrite, although chemically two distinct minerals, are so much alike in appearance that only the microscope could detect the distinction, and both are known under the general name of jade. The colour, which is often changed by additional mineral properties, ranges from grayish, greenish, bluish, or yellowish white tones to various shades of green, sometimes appearing quite black. Emerald green, the fei-ts'ui of the Chinese, is the most highly- prized both for its beauty and its rarity.
The principal quarries of jadeite are in Upper Burmah; Nephrite is found in Turkestan, and in Switzerland, Silesia and Austria in Europe. Alaska has a jade mountain, and boulders have been found in the State of Washington and British Columbia. New Zealand and New Caledonia, Mexico and Central America have produced the mineral.
From earliest times it was used as a material for implements, weapons and ornaments in all these places, but China is preeminently the country of jade. The .Chinese have always esteemed it as more precious than jewels, being classed by them as the first of precious stones. It ranks with them as the most perfect material in creation. Its vague translucency and the delicate finish of which it was susceptible made it desirable for their highest expressions of art. The glyptic artist rendered birds and flowers, the soft flexibility of the lotos, the graceful elegance of the floral spray and foliage as well as the Imperial phoenix and dragon with unctuous charm and sumptuous elegance.
The Chinese ornamented jade by sculpturesque carving; in India it was also used as the base for mounting precious stones, as the old Delhi gem-encrusted pieces show. Only of recent years the lapidaries of Europe have begun to employ jade for artistic creations, of which several rare examples are shown in the collection.
The one thousand numbers included in the Bishop collection display first a mineralogical section in which samples of the minerals are shown from every known place where they may be found. An archaeological section presents specimens of implements, weapons and ornaments in which the material was wrought. The remainder of the collection embraces the art objects upon which the utmost resources of the glyptic art have been lavished. These have been gathered from China, India, Annam, Europe and New Zealand, and comprise every conceivable object of limpid beauty to which the material lends itself. Vases from China, with graceful lines, elegant shape, and patiently carved decoration; perfect boxes of soft sheen with jewelled decoration from India; and the modern work of Europe they all give the highest presentment of sensuous charm and artistry.