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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1071 

Lot 1071
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Lot 1071
Treasury 4, no. 566 (‘The Floating World’)

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted on one main side with Zhong Kui riding a donkey in the sky, preceded by a red bat, and with a demon-attendant carrying a pot of blossoming prunus on his shoulders following close by, set on a bank of formalized clouds that obscure the grassy ground beneath the clouds, inscribed in regular script with the title Yun cheng wanli 雲呈[sic] 萬里(‘A journey of 10,000 li among the clouds’), the other main side inscribed in regular script with the first few lines of a famous preface by Li Bo followed by Bingshen heyue xiaxun our shibi 丙申荷月下旬偶試筆 (‘During the last ten days of the Lotus monthin the year bingshen, I tried out my brush)’, followed by the signature Sun Xingwu孫星五in smaller characters and one seal of the artist, yin (‘seal’), in positive seal script
Sun Xingwu, Beijing, end of the sixth lunar month, 1896
Height: 6.23 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.66/1. 71 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Sotheby’s, Billingshurst, 25 June 1991, lot 305

Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 352
Treasury 4, no. 566

Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
Christie’s, London, 1999

Sun Xingwu seems to have gathered his influences eclectically as well as developing his own style of painting and his own repertoire of subjects. His borrowings from both Zhou Leyuan and Ma Shaoxuan were discussed under Sale 5, lot 113, where he used their signatures on his works. Here the debt to Ma Shaoxuan’s influence is almost certainly revealed in the prose inscription on one main side in the manner of Ma. It says a lot about Sun’s confidence as an artist that he would undertake this sort of lengthy and demanding inscription relatively early in his career. The other side probably indicates a debt to Ye Zhongsan, who painted this subject first in the previous year, 1895 (see under lot 1166) in the present auction), although neither artist would have hesitated for a moment to borrow an appealing subject, and it is just possible that Sun was the originator of the theme in a lost bottle from 1895. We can be certain that both were painting the same concept.

The composition is similar, with Zhong Kui riding a donkey from right to left, attended by a single demon carrying a potted plant. Even the title is the same for the works of both artists. It is quite obvious that all of the Beijing artists who followed Zhou were quickly aware of any innovations among their fellow artists and equally quick to respond to them. If they mostly lived in the southern part of Beijing, which seems to have been the centre of the art, and probably knew each other, it is hardly surprising that there was so much artistic cross-fertilization between them.

The prose inscription comprises the first eight lines of ‘Preface to Poems Composed in a Spring Evening Banquet Held at the Peach and Plum Garden,’ written by the Tang poet Li Bai (701–762). It reads:

Now, heaven and earth are but a place where the myriad things in the universe pause for the night; and light and darkness [i.e., time] are but a passing traveller across a hundred ages. This floating life is like a dream. And how often do we really feel happy? The ancients grasped their torches and went merrymaking in the night. Truly they had cause to do so!


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=1861&exhibition=13&ee_lang=eng


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