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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1094 

Lot 1094
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Lot 1094
Treasury 2, no. 370 (‘The Colonel’s Horse ‘)
HK$750,000

Chalcedony; adequately but not extensively hollowed; with a slightly irregular flat foot; carved with a continuous, partially cameo scene of a scholar seated on a rock looking at a horse in a rocky landscape with two pine and two maple trees
Suzhou, School of Zhiting, 1740–1850
Height: 6.12 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/2.00 cm
Stopper: jadeite; gilt-silver collar

Provenance:
Colonel Kedzior
Lydia Tovey
Sotheby’s, London, 24 and 28 April 1987, lot 700

Published:
Kleiner 1987, no. 151
JICSBS, Winter 1992, front cover
Treasury 2, no. 370
University of Hong Kong, 1999

Exhibited:
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
University Museum and Art Gallery, University of Hong Kong, 1999

The subject of a horse in its natural state in the wilderness, often shown rolling joyously on its back, was a fairly popular one in post-Tang art and by the late Ming and Qing dynasties had become a standard image.

The scholar who sits calmly watching the untrammelled horse delighting in its freedom and, therefore, by reflection his own, wears a loose-cowl head-dress similar to that of the figure picking prunus in Sale 4, lot 5, and the figure of Meng Haoran in Sale 7, lot 25. Obviously they cannot all be intended as the same person, which suggests that this was one of the alternative dress modes in the School of Zhiting for depicting a scholar at ease.

Here again we have the masterly carving of the Zhiting School applied to certain standard pictorial elements. There are low relief groups of serrated-edge rocks, ledges with roughly vertically carved rockwork sides, and others with horizontally serrated rocky sides. The pine trees of this school are epitomised here with two trees, one low on one narrow side in front of the horse, the other on the main side above its rump. Both are composed around darker markings in the material used as formalized pine-needle-clusters, and the balance between the darker foliage and the network of trunk and branches carved from the ground colour as usual is characteristically inspired. Given the use of the natural markings in the stone as the foliage, it would be difficult to imagine a more satisfying composition of branches and trunk.

The hollowing here is well done in that there is a perfectly controlled, evenly profiled, well finished inner oval to hold snuff; but while adequate, it is far from extensively hollowed. The walls are thick, even by the standards of this school, and the bottle correspondingly heavy. Accepting that both these and a great many of the Official School bottles are eighteenth century, made at a time when function was still a vital factor in snuff-bottle production (regardless of the already well-established trend of treating them also as collector’s items or works of art transcending their function), we must conclude that differences in degree of hollowing was entirely a matter of fashion, and the fashion adopted by this school was for the heavier, less extensively hollowed bottle.

The foot on this example is also typical. Along with thinly hollowed bottles, a protruding foot rim was very much the exception with the School of Zhiting. As a rule, they were simply flattened and oval in shape, sometimes with the carving continuing beneath the foot as on Sale 1, lot 25, where the colour of a carved detail in the main design continued under the foot, although there are examples with a protruding flat oval (Sale 1, lot 14) and with a concave oval (Treasury 2, no. 371) foot. With the flat oval foot it was quite common to find, as we do here, the lines of the main design running into the foot, making the oval slightly irregular in places.

 

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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