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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 103 

Lot 103

Lot 103
Treasury 2, no. 320 (‘The Ink-Play Master’s Monk’)

Agate; well hollowed with a flat lip and a concave foot; carved with a low-relief, partially cameo design of a monk with a bi disk suspended on a cord from his belt, the robes extending under the foot of the bottle
The Cameo Ink-play Master, possibly imperial, Official School, 1770–1860
Height: 5.62 cm
Mouth/lip: 1.0/1.9 cm
Stopper: coral; silver collar

Trojan Collection
Robert Hall (1993)

Hall 1992, no. 48
Kleiner 1995, no. 279
Treasury 2, no. 320

British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

The artistic genius of the Cameo Ink-play Master is apparent in every single work, and, of course, in the fact that no two are alike. He approached each piece of stone with a completely open mind and never stooped to rote repetition of standard images; the results are very rarely less than spectacular. The subject here is a hunched, robed, and hooded figure, presumably a monk. Hanging from his belt is a large bi disc, the ancient symbol of the heavens, which was used for personal symbolic adornment during life and placed in tombs, often in large quantities, after death. Such discs were commonly worn as part of the standard dangling jewellery or symbolic items of anyone of wealth and position, and although monks are not usually shown with personal jewellery of this sort, a symbol of heaven would seem to be appropriate.

The ink-play here is masterful, and while brilliant in the interpretation of the cowl and robes, the artist’s sheer genius at this game is revealed by the use of a darker circle of colouring in the stone as the central ring of the disc. The robes also continue beneath the slightly concave foot of the bottle, as does the carved detailing of them. This artist obviously saw his material as the ‘canvas’ for the work of art and felt equally at home using any surface of the bottle as part of the main subject.


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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