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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IV  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 28 November 2011: Lot 5 

Lot 5


Lot 5
Treasury 2, no. 369 (‘Painting Beneath the Prunus’)

A dendritic chalcedony 'elegant gathering' snuff bottle

Dendritic chalcedony; reasonably well hollowed, with a concave inner lip and flat foot; carved with a continuous, partially cameo scene of a scholar in a rocky garden beside a painting table reaching up to hold a branch of a blossoming prunus which grows from a rocky outcrop while his attendant approaches him offering a cup of wine, while on the other main side another scholar is seated on a rocky ledge beneath another, jagged rock overhang, the wine jar in front of him on the same ledge on which he sits, while a second attendant stands in front of a rock-face, holding something, perhaps another cup of wine, up towards it or to the pine tree growing from it
Suzhou, School of Zhiting, 1730 – 1850       
Height: 5.27 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.7/1.69 cm
Stopper: coral, carved with a reticulated, scrolling floral design; gilt-bronze collar chased with radiating lines

Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 150
Treasury 2, no. 369

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993

This is so close in feeling, style and quality of carving to Sale 1, lot 25, that it must have been a product of the same artistic personality. Even the painting table, set at a diagonal in both cases, is of identical shape, with the same rather unusual legs and feet, although here a plane of mottled darker colour in the stone, also dendritic on a restrained scale, has given it one of the loveliest painting tables in the snuff-bottle arts, resembling well-worn lacquer stained with ink. Every nuance of colour is, as usual, well used, even to the streak of dark running up to the neck on the same side as the painting table, which functions as a branch of the prunus tree. The prunus, when mature, has a gnarled old trunk that can grow to a reasonable thickness, but each year it puts out very long straight or curved new shoots that are of a quite different appearance, as here.

Apart from the serrated-line rocks, which are in some parts subtle and almost free of striations, as occurs from time to time with this school, and the cheese-grater rocks (cf. Sale 2, lot 31), a third type is found here. It consists of a type used to depict horizontal planes of rock. The second scholar is seated on one, a kind of ledge tilted towards the viewer to suggest depth and carved around its sides with horizontal, jagged lines. Its surface is cut with a series of small incisions to indicate texture. This basic type of rock is used in the school as horizontal planes, sometimes crisper and more angular than this rather rounded version, and sometimes in deeper relief, as in Sale 1, lot 55, and Sale 2, lot 78. Its sides, representing the vertical surfaces, can be cut either with vertical or horizontal markings (the former in Sale 1, lot 55, and Sale 2, lot 78; the latter here).

The scholar by the painting table, reaching for the flowering prunus branch, may be intended as Meng Haoran. Whenever this school depicted him on his donkey, he is garbed like this, with a loose, monk-like cowl instead of a scholar’s hat or a tied, Daoist-style cloth cap, also adopted by scholars at leisure to keep their long hair out of the way in casual garb. It may be that this in conjunction with the prunus would have been enough to identify him to the original target audience, but the inclusion of the other scholar, and a couple of attendants, not usually associated with this particular figure, also allows for this to be no more than an idealized yaji (‘elegant gathering’) with a group of scholars in a garden setting with painting table at the ready, wine and attendants to fetch brush and ink, food, wine, etc. The prunus is a symbol in general for the scholar, so its appearance need not necessarily identify any particular scholar. On the other hand, this school may have used this distinctive headdress to represent one figure, in which case it is likely to be Meng Haoran by association with Treasury 2, no. 366 and its relationship to the nephrite bottle by the same artistic personality, Sale 1, lot 93, with its more conventional image of Meng on a donkey.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1141&exhibition=9&ee_lang=eng


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