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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1098 

Lot 1098
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Lot 1098
Treasury 4, no. 494 (‘Whiling Away the Summer’)

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a slightly concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted with a continuous summer landscape scene in mountainous countryside with pines and other trees, two scholars at the window of a country estate and two more seated in a boat with a third figure who is probably the boatman, and distant mountains rising above floating clouds; inscribed in cursive script, Xinmao zhongqiu xie yu jingshi, Zhou Leyuan shu辛卯仲秋寫於京師,周樂元書 (‘Painted at the capital by Zhou Leyuan in mid-autumn of the year xinmao’), followed by one seal of the artist, yin (‘seal’), in negative seal script
Zhou Leyuan, Studio of Lotus-root Fragrance, Xuannan, Beijing, mid-autumn, 1891
Height: 6.41 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.51 cm
Stopper: coral, with integral finial and collar

Unrecorded source (prior to 1974)
Hugh Moss
Robert Hall (1990)
Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1992)

Hall 1990, no. 38
Treasury 4, no. 494

Christie’s, London, 1999

The great advantage of using the inside surface of a snuff bottle for a continuous composition is evident in this landscape from late in 1891. The purpose for both artist and audience of these idealized landscapes, whether the format is a hanging scroll, handscroll, album leaf, or snuff bottle, was escapist and meditational. Multiple, flexible perspective is one of the most powerful and sophisticated tools for facilitating the entry of the viewer into the realm of the painting by breaking down the distinction between artist and audience. The continuous landscape inside a snuff bottle has the same potential for this transformation as a handscroll. By turning the bottle slowly, one has the impression of travelling through the landscape. Indeed, in this respect, the snuff-bottle format has one advantage over the handscroll. It is continuous. There is no beginning and no end, and as such it is the ideal handscroll format in Chinese art.

When such a landscape is created with the aesthetic sensibility and accomplished technique of a Zhou Leyuan, or a Ding Erzhong, we have only to overcome the obstacle of scale and the persistent, but quite mistaken belief that anything as small and functional as a snuff bottle cannot be high art, to recognise that this little gem of painting fulfils the highest aspirations of the literati tradition.

This painting includes one of the most elaborate dream residences of Zhou’s entire output. Two large pavilions are set alongside an enormous open thatched viewing-gallery built on sloping stone foundations overhanging the river beneath towering pines. If one is going to build an imaginary retreat in a realm where one is mercifully free of architects, builders, and the lawyers needed to keep them in check, one might as well build on a grand scale.


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.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=1832&exhibition=13&ee_lang=eng


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