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photographer E-Yaji.
Snuff Bottles from the Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part I  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 May 2010: Lot 47 

Lot 47

   

Lot 47
Treasury 4, no. 503
HK$84,000

The Wife and Son of Lin Bu

Flawless crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding convex footrim; painted on one main side with a herdboy flying a kite from the back of his water buffalo as it wades through a stream near a rustic bridge with the leaves of a willow dangling down above them, and a single branch of blossoming prunus beyond, the other main side with a crane on a rocky outcrop in front of a blossoming prunus tree with bamboo growing beyond, inscribed in draft script with a poem followed by ‘[Executed by] Zhou Leyuan’, with one seal of the artist, Leyuan, in negative seal script
Bottle: 1750–1850
Painting: Zhou Leyuan, Studio of Lotus-root Fragrance, Xuannan, Beijing, circa 1892
Height: 6.01 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.74 and 1.6 cm (oval)
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

 Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

Lot 47 Provenance:
Sotheby’s, London, 6 July, 1965, lot 1
Hugh Moss (1980)
Gerd Lester (1986)

Published:
Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 3, p. 11, lower right
Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 4, pp. 63 and 64, figs. 22 and 23
Snuff Bottles of the Ch’ing Dynasty, no. 223
Forbidden City, No. 6/1983 (22), p. 30
Kleiner 1995, no. 266
1987 exhibition poster
Treasury 4, no. 503

Exhibited:
Hong Kong Museum of Art, October–December 1978
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

Lot 47 Commentary:
The herdboy on his water buffalo flying a kite represents a pictorial rendition of the idiomatic expression chunfeng deyi (the spring breeze has its way) which is also an idiomatic expression often used to describe the joyful state of mind of a person who enjoys everything because everything is exactly as they wish. Another interpretation is based upon the kite, flying high in the sky, seemingly making its way to the clouds. Visually and phonetically, this sight is evocative of the idiomatic expression, qingyun delu ([soar above] the azure clouds to make a way). In the past objects bearing this motif were presented as gifts to hopeful civil service examination candidates to wish them good luck or to officials when they attained promotion (see Tsang 1998, p. 17).

On the side with the crane and prunus the poem reads:

Beyond the luxuriant bamboo grove is a slanting branch.
Shimmering moonlight from the sky defines [the contours of its] simple flowers.
Don’t say that those who are unattractive in appearance can never find a companion,
[For even] in cold weather a crane will stay with the prunus blossoms.

The last two lines of this poem refer to the well-known recluse and poet, Lin Bu (967–1028), who found companionship in the prunus grove he tended and the crane he kept; the former he regarded as his wife and the latter, his son (see Tsang 1994, pp. 10–11.)

This is another of Zhou’s masterpieces in what appears to be an earlier crystal bottle, allowing, as on Treasury 4, nos. 496 and 498, a more expansive ‘canvas’ for the subjects.

With the specific reference to Lin Bu, it also brings to a common theme for his later years, the inclusion of the resonance of a historical figure and everything he represents to accrue to the work of art, which seems to have inspired Zhou to produce what may be his finest painting of a crane from the entire output. It is also one of his finest renditions of the boy on a water buffalo, in a class with the masterly Treasury 4, nos. 486 and 497. Although undated, it was probably painted in 1892, judging from the fully mature, angular calligraphy and particularly by the signature, which is typical of his 1892 output. It might be a little earlier, but we believe 1892 is by far the most likely period. The only comparable painting of a similar subject, also apparently in an old crystal bottle, is Treasury 4, no. 504, which is inscribed and signed in a similar manner. Both have the typical seals of his later years used extensively, although not exclusively, in that year.

 

Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=105&exhibition=1&ee_lang=eng


  
  

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