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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VI  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 27 May 2013: Lot 128 

Lot 128

Lot 128
Treasury 2, no. 374 (‘The Stone-picking Studio’s Lingzhi picker’)
HK$875,000

Chalcedony; adequately but not extensively hollowed with a flat, slightly irregular foot; carved with a continuous, partially cameo scene of a clean-shaven man in a straw hat walking with his hoe over his right shoulder in a rocky landscape with a large convoluted rock, a pine tree and a clump of lingzhi growing in a grotto, inscribed in cameo relief draft script Cai zhi tu (Picking lingzhi),a band of vapour emerging from the base of the convoluted rock to run low across one main side, up the side of the other rock, and around the shoulders of the bottle to become a cloud-scroll frame
Suzhou, school of Zhiting, 1730–1850
Height: 4.99 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.45/1.42 cm
Stopper: glass; turquoise collar

Provenance:
Cai Shi Xuan (Stone Picking Studio)
Sotheby’s, London, 21 June 1995, lot 54

Published:
Arts of Asia, November-December 1995, p. 121
Treasury 2, no. 374

The genius of the Zhiting capacity to transform the negative into the positive, is again illustrated here by the use of a pale white fissure in the stone. Unused, it would have resembled a nasty bruise, but it has been turned into the head of an enormous, record-breaking lingzhi which, once gathered, is going to allow the fungus hunter at least the rest of the day off. By this sweep of the imagination, a nasty flaw becomes magically positive. The continuation of the flaw, a smaller area to one side, is similarly carved as the entire head of a smaller fungus.

This unusually small bottle, even for a school that was no stranger to smaller sizes, features, paradoxically, one of the most monumental and magnificent convoluted rocks in the entire snuff-bottle arts. It runs up both narrow sides, with deeply carved three-dimensionality, around the base and under the foot, so that the view on each side is seen through the flanking stones. One side, the one with the inscription superimposed upon it, is also a triple cameo with the dark colour of the inscription superimposed on a pale grey rock, which is in turn the top of a darker brown rock set on the brownish-grey ground. The strange, formalized vapour, a magical emanation linked to and symbolising the otherworldly nature of the fungus, emerges from the equally magical rock, which would have been considered by any passing Chinese aesthete as a natural masterpiece far more impressive than any of the monumental religious sculptures he may also have encountered during his lifetime. It helps give the scene its mystical setting, alive with the promise of arcane secrets.

There is a very unusual aspect of school style here in the characteristically well-carved pine tree that grows from the top of the convoluted rock with the inscription. The entire tree, trunk, and foliage are carved in cameo from darker material, whereas, as a rule, trunk and branches are usually in the ground colour and only foliage, albeit not always all the foliage, in a darker tone.

Although with an atypical flat lip, the hollowing here is typical for the school, and the tiny mouth matches Sale 3, lot 59, in size. An unusual feature is the fact that, although the colour runs beneath the foot, there is no carving there, presumably because with this school, where every single work of art is re-invented afresh without any repetition of compositions, it was felt that since the rock continued all around the foot, the whole foot would have to be carved as deeply pierced rockwork, which was not necessary to make sense of just a single patch of colour, as was done with Sale 3, lot 59, for instance.

 

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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