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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 60 

Lot 60


Lot 60
Treasury 4, no.454 (‘Returning Home’)

An inside-painted rock-crystal 'landscape' snuff bottle

Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and flat foot, the bulging main sides framed with twinned incised lines; painted on one main side with a meandering river valley surrounded by peaks, with a man in the foreground returning home to his country retreat clad in a straw raincoat and hat, his fishing-rod over his shoulder, the upper left-hand corner inscribed with the signature, Gan Xuan, and one token seal of the artist, the other main side with a poetic inscription in clerical script followed by the signature, Gugang qiao (‘The Woodcutter of Gugang’), with three token seals of the artist
Gan Xuanwen, Lingnan, 1810–1825
Height: 5.6 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.75 cm
Stopper: carnelian; vinyl collar

Hugh Moss (circa 1964)
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1984)
Private English collection
Sotheby’s, London, 13 October 1981, lot 153
Hugh M. Moss Ltd.
Eric Young
Sotheby’s, London, 3 March 1987, lot 137

Chinese Snuff Bottles No.1, p. 30, fig. 2
JICSBS, December 1974, p. 16, figs. 15 and 16
Kleiner 1987, no. 250
JICSBS, Spring 1991, p. 19, figs. 42 and 43
Treasury 4, no.454

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, 1993
Christie's, London, 1999

Gan Xuanwen used the literary name Fisherman of Gugang, which appears on one of his bottles in Hugh Moss Records, but on this example he signs Woodcutter of Gugang, using another symbol of the ideal country life and the wise observer of the rise and fall of dynasties who refuses to sully himself with human affairs. Gugang means ‘Ancient Gangzhou’, and Gangzhou, the modern Xinhui district of Jiangmen (a bit to the west of a line drawn between Macao and Guangzhou), was the last holdout of the Southern Song court against the Mongols in 1279. It was also the native place of Gan Xuanwen, so whether his signature is intended to identify him as a fisherman/woodcutter who remembers the fall of the Song as one example of the endless vanities of man or simply as a native of Xinhui is open to speculation.

The dense, overlapping horizontal strokes that build up the impression of heavily foliated peaks are an obvious reference to the painting style associated with Mi Youren (1086–1165), who developed and established a style of painting mountains made up of a series of horizontal, wet ink-markings built up on each other. This would have been one of the most readily recognized styles to Gan’s fellow literati, any of whom could probably have recognized even more subtle stylistic references to dozens of other artists.

The poetic inscription reads:

This transparent vessel was carved out,
And within it is kept an entire universe.
If one finds oneself desperately fond of it,
It matters not whether the market price is high or low.

It sounds as if it was written by Gan or his friends specifically for a snuff bottle and endorses our belief that he and his circle of friends were well aware of the delights of snuff, and that Gan himself was somewhat of a connoisseur.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1140&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |