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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part V  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2012: Lot 25 

Lot 25


Lot 25
Treasury 4, no. 459 (‘River Village Home’)

An inside-painted ‘landscape’ snuff bottle

Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a slightly concave lip and protruding concave foot surrounded by a flattened footrim; painted on one main side with a scholar in fisherman’s garb and boat in the reeds beneath an overhanging cliff, with sailing boats visible beyond the reeds and the river valley stretching into the distance between towering peaks, with rooftops nestling in their foothills, the narrow sides with two vignettes, one of orchids, the other of bamboo, both growing beside rocks, the other main side with a poem in regular script with a strong clerical-script flavour
Gan Xuanwen, Lingnan school, 1810–1825
Height: 5.39 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.55/1.50 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (circa 1969)
Heflene Collection
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1985)

Kleiner 1987, no. 248
Treasury 4, no. 459

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Christie’s, Londong, 1999

The poem quoted here was composed by the Tang poet Sikong Shu (fl. 766) and is entitled ‘On the River Village.’ It reads:

I stop fishing and come home, but don’t tie up my boat;
Over the river village the moon is setting: it is time to sleep.
Even if the wind blows all night and takes my boat away,
It will remain among the flowers of the reeds, by the shallow waters.

Some readers may notice that the poem is transcribed in simplified characters. However, this does not mean the bottle was painted after these became the official forms in mainland China in several rounds in the 1950s and 1960s! All of the characters are attested in pre-modern texts, usually as ‘vulgar’ (cf. vulgate) variants. For the tiny space within a snuff bottle, they have obvious advantages.

 The painting is in remarkably good condition, with all of the original colours still visible and the subtlety of the washes and brushwork plain to read. It is a strange departure from Gan’s usual practice insofar as it has no signature or seals. Even his unsigned works normally have at least token seals, whereas here there is nothing. He has absorbed himself in the personality of Sikong Shu. He has become his image, so no signature is necessary. To learn the name of the artist, step into the picture and ask the man in the boat.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1356&exhibition=10&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |