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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 64 

Lot 64

Lot 64
Treasury 4, no. 529 (‘A Heavenly Gift’)
HK$125,000

Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and flat hexagonal foot; painted with a continuous composition illustrating a story from the Liaozhai zhiyi (Strange Tales of Liaozhai) showing the heroine, a goddess ( wearing red and mounted on horseback) with her three attendants being shown the jewel she had previously given to Mr. Mi for his examination expenses, in a landscape setting with a willow tree, inscribed in clerical script with the title ‘The Daughter of a Deity (Shennü)’ followed in draft script by, ‘Executed by Ye Zhongsan in the first month of winter in the year bingwu’, with one seal of the artist, yin (‘seal’), in negative seal script
Bottle: 1750–1850
Painting: Ye Zhongsan, the Apricot Grove Studio, Chongwen district, Beijing, tenth month, 1906
Height: 6.35 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.51/1.48 cm
Stopper: glass; gilt metal collar

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (circa 1972)
S. C. Harris
Robert Hall (1984)

Published:
Treasury 4, no. 529

Exhibited:
Christie's, London, 1999

We presume this faceted crystal bottle was an old plain crystal snuff bottle when Ye got hold of it. It is another of Ye’s masterpieces of the period. It seems to be an extension of the extraordinary output of 1905, of which Sale 2, lot 52 was one example. The colouring is becoming brighter than the softer tones of Sale 3, lot 106 and Sale 4, lot 9, but has not yet achieved the strident brilliance of the studio years. There is still the extensive shading and varying of the pastel colours of the clothing that is found on the earlier works, and the colours are well balanced even if bright.

This is a story from juan 10 of the Liaozhai zhiyi about a certain Mr. Mi, of Fujian province, who, wrongly accused of a murder and in the process of clearing his name, had lost all his money (see JICSBS, September 1980, p.16). He was on his way to the capital to sit for the examinations one day when he spied a little blue carriage with a beautiful girl in it. A servant asked him why he looked so sad and he recounted his tale, at which the girl in the carriage took off a jewel she was wearing and gave it to him to sell so that he could continue to take his examination. Mi was deeply moved and wanted to engage her in further conversation, but she left. The next year Mi was again on the road to the capital when he became lost in the mountains. It was at the time of the Qingming Festival for commemorating the dead, so there were many voyagers on the road, all heading back to their family’s graves to tend them and keep them in good order. Suddenly some girls on horseback appeared. One dismounted and asked Mi where he was going, and Mi recognized her as the girl from the carriage. Hearing Mi’s explanation, she asked why he had not gone the previous year, and he told her that he was so touched by her gesture and the valuable gem she had given him that he could not bear to part with it. The girl thereupon gave him two hundred pieces of silver, and although he tried to refuse, she left it on the ground, so he took it, went on to pass the examinations and was able to repay his debts. With what was left he fared well and recouped all his losses. He also married his benefactress. The girl was a goddess and married Mi because her father, God of the South Mountain, was in trouble with another god who was planning to take his suit against him to Heaven and needed a high-ranking official to use his official seal to excuse him, thus annulling the lawsuit. In a culture with multiple gods, there is a tendency for them to behave pretty much like the humans who give them substance. Mi reached the age of eighty, but his wife retained her youth, being a goddess, and when he finally died, she had a huge coffin made, and when people came to pay their respects, they found her lying dead beside him in the coffin. They were buried together.

 

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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