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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 30 

Lot 30

 
 
   

Lot 30
Treasury 7, no. 1535

A carved brown lacquer snuff bottle

(‘Lu Dong’s Progeny’)

Olive-green lacquer suffused with tiny, irregular cream and black fragments, on wood; with a flat lip and recessed, flat foot surrounded by a protruding, flat footrim; engraved on one main side with a scene of a two minnows swimming in an undefined pond or stream beneath the branches of a willow tree, and on the other with a katydid clinging to long grass, with one seal of the artist, Kuisheng; the narrow sides with mask-and-ring handles
Lu Dong, Yangzhou, 1800–1850
Height: 6.78 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.5/1.61 cm
Stopper: glass

Lot 30 Provenance:
Hugh Moss (HK) Ltd (1987)

Published:
Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, no. 85
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 264
Treasury 7, no. 1535

Exhibited:
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum of Singapore, November 1994–January 1995

Lot 30 Commentary
Examples of Lu Dong’s artistry have already appeared in these auctions as Sale 2, lot 27 and Sale 1, lot 76. This is another of the always wonderful, understated, engraved ‘paintings’ done with the ‘iron brush’ in the hands of one of the masters of the genre for the snuff-bottle world (and indeed, in the world of other literati objects, of which Lu produced a wide range).

When this was published in Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, the authors suggested that the mask-and-ring handles may have been a later addition. Perhaps it was when the bottle was acquired by someone at court or a northerner who felt more comfortable if his snuff bottle was embellished with these voracious taotie. They are an anomaly on Lu’s works. He worked in the south, at Yangzhou, whereas mask handles were a particularly courtly obsession. That is not to say they never occurred elsewhere, but they were relatively less frequently used at other centres unless work was being done for the court or to court specifications. Moreover, the very slight relief in which the handles appear was achieved by lowering the immediately surrounding area slightly; it is likely that if Lu had originally planned mask handles, he would have built up the lacquer at that point to allow for them, or drawn them in the same ‘iron-brush’ technique used for the decoration. The style is also different from any of Lu’s established styles in the different media in which he worked.

The lacquer appears to be olive-green, but speckling is visible under close scrutiny. Magnified considerably, this is revealed as a mass of tiny fragments caught up in the surface of the lacquer. One of Lu’s standard lacquer techniques was to mix lacquer with chips of ivory, metal, or other pieces of ground-up lacquer to gain a textured, minutely patterned surface when polished flat. It is impossible to identify the fragments here, but some appear to be lacquer, including a single splash of cinnabar-red, suggesting that Lu randomly ground up whatever was left over in the workshop from his many techniques and materials and used it to texture his lacquer. In Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, no. 64, a circular inkstone and cover of brown colour, is also textured with speckling, as, even more spectacularly, is no. 149, an embellished inkstone box containing its original sandlacquer inkstone.

 

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