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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 62 

Lot 62


Lot 62
Treasury 4, no.602 (‘Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses’)

An inside-painted rock-crystal 'Zhou Dunyi' snuff bottle

Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a slightly concave lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a rounded footrim; painted on one main side with a mountainous landscape scene with an inn outside a country estate on a pathway beside a river, which is crossed by an arched stone bridge, with a traveller on a donkey followed by an attendant on foot approaching the estate, while another, also on a donkey but unattended, approaches the inn, where an unsaddled donkey is already tied up, a cove in the lower left corner with a scholar seated gazing out across the water from a country retreat built on stilts in the shallows, the other main side with a picture of Zhou Dunyi holding a goose-feather fan and leaning over the railing of a studio set in a lotus pond, and admiring the flowers growing beneath the branches of an overhanging willow tree; inscribed ‘Executed by Ma Shaoxuan’, with one seal of the artist, Shao, in negative seal script
Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing, 1899–1910
Height: 6.16 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.64/1.52 cm
Stopper: coral, with integral finial and collar

Sotheby’s, New York, 6 April 1990, lot 383

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 336
Kleiner 1995, no. 413
Ma Zengshan 1997, p. 48, fig. 30
Treasury 4, no.602

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
British Museum, London, June–November 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997
Christie’s, London, 1999

The scholar enjoying lotuses may be identified as Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073),
the renowned Song philosopher who wrote a short prose piece entitled ‘Explaining my Love for the Lotus’. Over the years, this composition had won high esteem among men of letters. It is inscribed on a bottle in Henry Hitt’s Register of Painted Inside Chinese Snuff Bottles that was from the Arthur Loveless Collection.

On the other side is a repetition of the landscape of Sale 3, lot 27, one of Ma’s rarer complex landscapes, as opposed to the simpler versions found on so much of his more hastily produced, decorative, and often, presumably, studio works. The two landscapes are essentially identical, right down to the position and colouring of the tiny figure seated in the small retreat in the cove at the lower left-hand corner of the composition, the angles and number of trees, and all of the genre detail, the only difference being in the texturing of the mountains and the positioning of the small rocks in the river, and these differences were obviously dictated by the narrower confines of the bottle here. Because Ma had to reduce the width of both the river and the cove in order to fit the same composition into a smaller space, he had to decrease the number of rocks in mid-stream and reposition them so they are still comfortable within the narrower space. It is an indication of how thoughtful Ma was as an artist when involved with his more committed works, even though he was repeating his own composition almost element for element. The narrower confines also meant that by closing up the breadth of sweeps of hills and groups of trees, the texturing became denser on this example, which encouraged him to better integrate it into the surrounding space by using more ink texturing where left-over space was allowed to function in the broader example.

Three other different versions of his more complex style of landscape are illustrated in Chinese Snuff Bottles No. 2, p. 53, figs. 27, 28 and 29.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1138&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |