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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 48 

Lot 48

Lot 48
Treasury 4, no. 463 (‘Gan Xuan’s Early Scholar’s Retreat’)
HK$15,000

Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and concave foot; painted on one main side with an idyllic scene of a scholar seated at the window of a lake-side retreat, gazing out towards distant peaks, the other main side with a prose inscription in cursive script followed by a two-character signature superimposed with two token seals of the artist
Lingnan school, attributable to Gan Xuanwen, 1805–1814
Height: 6.69 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.70 cm
Stopper: coral; ox horn collar

Provenance:
Hugh M. Moss Ltd. (1992)

Published:
Treasury 4, no. 463

Exhibited: 
Christie's, London, 1999 

This appears to be an early work by Gan Xuanwen, but there is just a possibility that it may be by another Lingnan artist whose works have become lost among the often illegible or unsigned group of early bottles. Within the circle of friends of Gan Xuanwen we know that one other artist, at least, painted inside snuff bottles (see Sale 2, lot 70) and it is quite possible that others of his artistic friends tried their hand at it, even if not on a regular basis. If so, we might expect to find the occasional bottle that is stylistically similar to Gan’s works but by another hand. If it is by Gan, it is presumably an early work, since while being in his style and of the sort of subject he favoured above all throughout his career, it is not as well integrated as his classic landscapes in either the brushwork or the colour washes. The artistic personality is evident, not only in the subject of a scholar seated in a pavilion overlooking an ideal landscape, but in the brushwork and particularly in the lines for the trees and the distant mountains. Absent, however, is the refinement, which suggests that it was produced before Gan had completely mastered his art.

The inscription has now been identified as a letter by the great fourth-century calligraphy master Wang Xizhi. Although its importance lies in the calligraphy, not in the content, we offer a translation. The letter is to his brother-in-law.

Last time I went east, I had a cursory look at the fine scenery. For a long time now I have had a desire to be a hermit. How is it that you bring it up now once again? It is like a conversation in a dream. It seems we are not destined to speak face to face, unfortunately. How can a letter convey everything?

For Gan’s various courtesy names and sobriquets, see the commentary to this bottle in the published Bloch catalogue.

 

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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