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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1076 

Lot 1076
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Lot 1076
Treasury 4, no. 591 (‘Portrait of Rongqing’)
HK$625,000

Glass, ink, and vermilion watercolour; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted on one main side with an ink portrait of Rongqing 榮慶wearing a fur hat, the other main side inscribed in regular script with an eight-line tetrasyllabic inscription preceded by the date, Yisi zhongxia 乙巳仲夏 (‘Midsummer of the year yisi’) and followed by the signatureMa Shaoxuan 馬少宣 , with one seal of the artist in negative seal script, Shaoxuan
Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing, midsummer, 1905
Height: 6.38 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.52/1.55 cm
Stopper: quartzite; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Lilla S. Perry
Bob C. Stevens
Sotheby Parke Bernet, 26 March 1982, lot 216
Mei Ling Collection
Sotheby’s, New York, 15 March 1984, lot 200

Published:
Perry 1960, p. 136, fig. 133
Stevens 1976, no. 845
Chinese Snuff Bottles and Dishes, no. 290
JICSBS, December 1978, p. 43, no. 290
Arts of Asia, January–February 1982, p. 94, no. 9
Curtis 1980, p. 99, figs. 140 and 141
JICSBS, Summer 1984, p. 30, fig. 12
Kleiner 1987, no. 295
1987 Exhibition poster
Arts of Asia, January–February, 1990, p. 94, no. 9
Treasury 4, no. 591

Exhibited:
Mikimoto Hall, Tokyo, October 1978
Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Christie’s, London, 1999

This early Ma Shaoxuan portrait was identified by Emily Byrne Curtis as depicting Rongqing (see JICSBS, Spring 1989, pp. 31 and 32). Curtis tracked down a photograph of Rongqing taken when he was appointed Minister of Ceremonies and Vice President of the Privy Council in the new cabinet for May 1911. We have located other photos of him that confirm the identification, although none is the precise model for this bottle. We can synthesize the various dates given for Rongqing by saying he lived either c.1855 – 1912 or c.1859 – c.1916. A Mongol bannerman, he became a metropolitan graduate (jinshi) in 1886. In 1900, he joined Natong 那桐 (see Sale 6, lot 132, dated 1902) and others in Beijing to deal with the foreign powers in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion. When the Ministry of Education was established in 1905, he became its head. This bottle must have been commissioned to commemorate that honour.

The rhyming encomium is appropriate for Rongqing, who held several other posts in education as well. Everything in the text points to the importance of education in producing the next generation of great men.

‘After [a predecessor] has made manifest his virtue,
There must come a man of accomplishment.’
To one’s descendants one must transmit the Three Things;
So they have ‘refined and solid qualities in equal measure.’
‘Sincere and truthful’, ‘honourable and careful’:
The teacher’s admonitions are ‘written on the sash.’
The chief ministers [of the early Tang], with their grand and lofty deeds,
Came largely from the Fen and Yellow Rivers.

The first two lines are based on an assertion in an early historical work (the Zuozhuan 左傳) that if a sage makes his virtue manifest, even though he may not accomplish anything in his own generation, it leads to the appearance of people who have a deep understanding of how things should be done and are able to accomplish a great deal. These lines often appear in contexts that imply that the person being praised has built upon the moral excellence of his ancestors, but in this context the emphasis is undoubtedly on what will be accomplished by the generation now being educated under Rongqing. The Three Things in line 3 are the Six Virtues (knowledge, humaneness, sagacity, etc.), the Six Comportments (filial piety, friendship, harmony, etc.), and the Six Arts (ritual, musical performance, archery, etc.). The line on refined and solid qualities comes straight from the Analects of Confucius, as does the admonition to be ‘sincere and truthful’ in one’s words and ‘honourable and careful’ in one’s conduct and the expression ‘to write on the sash’ something that is to be remembered always. (We use the translations of James Legge as our point of reference for rendering these terms into English.) Lines 7 and 8 refer to the belief that disciples of Wang Tong 王通 (d. 617), a Confucian teacher in the area of the confluence of the Fen and Yellow Rivers, made up a significant proportion of the great ministers of the early Tang dynasty. (Given the questions that have long surrounded Wang Tong and his influence, we should direct the interested reader to Ding Xiang Warner, ‘Wang Tong and the Compilation of the Zhongshuo: A New Evaluation of the Source Materials and Points of Controversy’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 121, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 2001), 370 – 390; the various lists of disciples are discussed on pp. 382-385.)

Ma became established as a portrait painter in the first decade of the twentieth century. This was a task made much easier by his early portrayal of high government officials, which led to a commission in 1911 to paint two portraits of the Xuantong emperor. A list of the portraits painted by Ma and known to his grandson would have made an impressive invitation list for a party. Apart from the Xuantong emperor and a number of high officials from the fading Qing dynasty and the ensuing republic, including Yuan Shikai, Ma painted Kaiser Wilhelm II, King George V and Queen Mary, King Ibn Sa‘ud of Arabia, and President and Mrs Woodrow Wilson of the United States. He also painted several Qing princes and a number of famous Beijing opera stars (see Ma Zengshan 1997, pp. 51–72 and Curtis 1980).

 

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=1856&exhibition=13&ee_lang=eng


  
  

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