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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 151 

Lot 151

Lot 151
Treasury 4, no. 630 (‘Responding to a Last Warning’)
HK$32,500

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and a recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; painted on one main side with a group of auspicious objects (a natural rock sculpture, a tripod vessel containing blossoming prunus branches, a Yixing teapot, a jardinière of calamus, and a crackled ceramic vase containing lingzhi), inscribed in draft script ‘[Executed by] Ziheng, a junior, for Futing, an honourable senior acquaintance,’ with two indecipherable seals of the artist, the other main side with an illustration of a scene from Liaozhai zhiyi, with the title in clerical script ‘Mr. Liu,’ followed in draft script by ‘[Painted by] Zhou Shaoyuan in a winter month in the year kuimao,’ with one indecipherable seal of the artist
Zhou Shaoyuan, Beijing, winter 1903
Height: 6.3 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.46 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Albert Pyke
Hugh M. Moss Ltd
Ladislas Kardos
Reif Collection
Christie’s, New York, 18 October 1993, lot 236

Published:
Treasury 4, no. 630

Exhibited:
Christie's, London, 1999

According to Ye Bengqi in early 1974, Zhou Shaoyuan was a nephew of Zhou Leyuan. Ye was acquainted with him, but says that since he was a poor artist, he had a short and unheralded career. This seems to be borne out by the surviving works where twenty-one bottles, dated from 1901 to 1909, are mostly decorative and poor, but there are exceptions and they usually include the subject of auspicious objects, which are his only reference to his illustrious uncle’s style in the entire output. Otherwise he spent most of his career working in the style of Ye Zhongsan, as he does here on the side with the figure subject, which is the more pedestrian of the two paintings. The side with auspicious objects is beautifully painted, as are one or two others of the subject, and although his calligraphy is never good, it is competent. He does not have his famous uncle’s impeccable sense of composition, but it is nonetheless an agreeable and well-painted work

On the other side we have an illustration from the second story in juan 7 of Liaozhai zhiyi (‘Strange Tales of Liaozhai’ — see also Sale 3, lot 48). A man called Liu was well known for his malicious personality. One day, he was summoned by the God of Hades. His crimes were proclaimed and he was about to be executed and reborn as a beast when his record was checked and it was discovered that he had once, at least, done a good deed. For this reason he was spared and allowed to resume his life on probation. The good deed he was responsible for was done in the thirteenth year of the Chongzheng era (1640), a year when the people of the place called Zi in Shandong province were afflicted with famine. At the time Liu was serving in the capacity of chief constable. He came upon a weeping couple who told him that they had just been reunited for a year but had to part again because of the famine. Later, on patrolling, he spotted some people embroiled in argument in front of a shop that sold oil. When he stopped to check, it turned out to be the same couple haggling with the owner of the shop over the price of the sale of the wife. On hearing that the meagre sum of several scores of cash offered by the shopkeeper would hardly be enough to get the husband out of the disaster area and the wife would likely be resold by the shopkeeper to make a profit, Liu first suggested that the shopkeeper increase the sale price so that at least the husband would be saved. To back up his proposition he was willing to contribute half of the increased amount. But the shopkeeper refused, saying that he had already purchased a dozen or so women. Liu was so exasperated that in the end he gave the badly needed money to the couple out of his own pocket so both husband and wife could have a chance to lead a new life together. Long after this incident, whenever Liu came close to committing an evil deed, his friend Li Cuishi would gently remind him of the conditional reprieve granted to him by the God of Hades. Eventually, Liu was known to be still going strong at seventy years of age. In the illustration, Mr Liu is in a blue robe, and the shopkeeper in white.

 

This is not the Sotheby’s sale catalogue. This is a product of Hugh Moss for the purposes of this website. For the catalogue details please refer to Sotheby’s website or request a copy of a printed sale catalogue from Sotheby’s

 

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