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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 73 

Lot 73


Lot 73
Treasury 4, no. 439 (‘Reclusive Scholar’)

A carved inside-painted rock-crystal 'fisherman and woodcutter' snuff bottle

Crystal and ink; with a flat lip and flat foot; carved with a design continued across one narrow and both main sides of two bats among formalized clouds; painted on one main side with a fisherman and a woodcutter chatting as they stroll along a rocky path, with a poetic inscription in regular script with strong clerical-script flavour, the other main side with a scholar seated fishing from a rocky ledge in a mountain pond fed by a waterfall, with a further poetic inscription, also in regular script, followed by ‘Recorded on an autumn day in the year yichou’, and the partly obliterated signature, Yunfeng, together with one seal of the artist drawn in black ink, Yunfeng, in positive seal script
Bottle: 1760–1805
Painting: Yiru jushi, attributable to Beijing, autumn, 1805
Height: 6.7 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.46 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Drouot (Millon-Jutheau), Paris,
19 October 1990, lot 176

Treasury 4, no. 439

Christie’s, London, 1999

The first couplet is the opening two lines of a poem on the fisherman by Qin Taoyu, a minor Tang poet:

With a green bamboo rod, he spends his old age at a bend in the river,
Clothes made of lotus leaves he can make himself.

The second couplet is the concluding two lines of a poem on the archetypal companion of the fisherman in Chinese culture, the woodcutter. This one is by Lu Guimeng, a ninth-century poet:

The sun sets, but he does not come home;
Someone looks out for him by the brushwood gate.

This charming little scene of the woodcutter and fisherman is repeated several times by Yiru jushi, often using the same composition of the figures, but varying the setting (see, for instance, Sale 2, lot 124, and Treasury 4, no. 444). Having found his ideal image from Gao Kegong, a Yuan-dynasty artist with whom he may have identified (see under Sale 2, lot 124), he seems to have used it several times. They are all done in a simple style that would have appealed to the literati in mid-Qing China. Yiru jushi’s paintings are always slight, brief sketches in this sophisticated mode of Chinese painting where re-acquired naïveté is one of the powerful languages of communication.

If his borrowings from Gao are significant, so is his choice of Shen Zhou (1427–1509), the Ming scholar-painter, as another oft-quoted source of inspiration. Shen Zhou was admired for his life style and his paintings. He was one of the great scholar-sages of Chinese painting and, again, the choice of his work as a source would have carried a powerful message in defining Yiru jushi to his friends and acquaintances.

Somebody has deliberately removed the signature and seal on this bottle. They are almost completely obliterated, while the rest of the calligraphy and painting are intact. At some stage someone clearly wanted to hide the authorship and was helped in this task by the unusual use of only one of his various alternative signatures. It is common enough to remove names from seals if they are sold, or to remove imperial reign marks from pieces removed from the palace at a time when everyone would know that they had just been removed from the palace, but we can think of no reason to remove the signature, Yunfeng. Yunfeng (‘Cloudy Peaks’) was the art name used most frequently by Yiru jushi, although often in combination with other art-names, including his Manchu one (see Treasury 4, no. 447, for a discussion on his various personal and studio names).


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1126&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |