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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 25 

Lot 25

 

Lot 25
Treasury 2, no. 368
HK$480,000

Zhiting’s Elegant Garden Party

Dendritic chalcedony; reasonably well hollowed with a concave lip and flat foot; carved with a continuous partially cameo scene of a scholar, in full robes and hat, holding a brush in his right hand and about to write on a length of paper or silk stretched over a painting table in a rocky garden scene with two pines and two maple trees, with a small clump of long-stemmed lingzhi, while his attendant walks away from him carrying a book towards a diagonal swirl of formalized clouds, two small patches of colour at the neck carved as formalized clouds
Zhiting school, Suzhou, 1730–1850
Height:       5.85 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.78/1.99 cm
Stopper: turquoise; silver collar


  
Lot 25 Provenance:
Hugh Moss (1985)

Published:
Moss 1971, p. 65, no. 169
Kleiner 1987, no. 149
JICSBS, Autumn 1997, p. 13
Treasury 2, no. 368

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

Lot 25 Commentary
This is one of the masterpieces of the Zhiting school, with the material superbly interpreted and confidently carved into a dynamic and evocative subject. The obsessional lengths to which the Zhiting school went to employ every nuance of colour is illustrated by the rather strange diagonal wisp of clouds. As a rule these clouds define the upper border of the picture, allowing it to blend into a relatively plain neck, although necks may be decorated if there are areas of colour in need of interpretation. Close examination reveals that the reason for this atypical use of the cloud-scroll is a slight change in colour in the ground material which, without carving, would read as a paler diagonal line at that point. The clouds successfully hide this by turning the flaw into a positive element, giving a hint of misty, paler tone to the clouds. The flaw is pale, virtually invisible and would have been barely noticeable even if not carved, but it was enough for the carver to use and the Zhiting obsession with coloured inclusions dictated the band of diagonal clouds.

The scholar in his full scholastic outfit, including the characteristic hat with two extended side finials, is the epitome of coiled, confident energy about to be unleashed as calligraphic power. Scholars would frequently inspire themselves for calligraphic forays by studying old rubbings of the works of famous masters, usually bound as a series of separate sections contained in a brocaded loose binding (tao).

The picture is both delightful and powerful in its simplicity and abstract strength. The natural colours in the stone are not as widespread and varied as on many of the school, allowing the artist simple, uncluttered use of just three main areas of colour for the main view (the scholar’s robes, the attendant’s jacket and belt, and the pine-needle clusters). This concentrates attention, and gives the impression of a less miniaturized picture. The last example, in particular, with its more scattered and smaller details, needs close attention. It functions more overtly as a miniature, to be examined closely before it reveals its secrets, whereas this one is more immediately powerful even from a distance. When one is drawn closer to the detail of the design, it becomes apparent that the darker markings are dendritic which brings fascinating texture to the robes.

As far as the growing lexicon of Zhiting school style is concerned, we can add here the third common form of tree for the school. The typical second-phase prunus was seen in Treasury 2, no. 366 and the pine in Treasury 2, no. 367 and as the main tree here. The second, smaller tree here is a second tree-type which is almost as common for the school as the pine. Its identity is uncertain, it may be intended as a wutong, an auspicious tree and by legend, the choice of the fabled fenghuang as an exclusive roosting place, or it may be a maple or some other species. It is depicted by this school with a very similar trunk and branches to the pine tree, and growing from similarly inhospitable places such as from the sides of rocky banks, or from the tops of crags, but has different foliage, formalized and resembling clusters of three floppy spaniel’s ears radiating downwards and outwards. The same clusters of leaves, without branches, are also used for ground foliage in some cases (see, for instance, Treasury 2, no. 366, in the foreground in front of the attendant). It is probably more likely to be a maple than a wutong.

Although more extensively hollowed than many Zhiting school works, it is still not particularly thin-walled by, say, Official school standards. The Zhiting school tended to leave thicker walls to its bottles than other schools, although still allowing ample capacity and hollowing the inside very well, if not extensively.

 

Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=129&exhibition=1&ee_lang=eng


  
  

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