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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VIII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 May 2014: Lot 1032 

Lot 1032
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Lot 1032
Treasury 1, no. 136 (‘The Master of the Rocks “Absent Farmer” Jade’)

Nephrite of pebble material; well hollowed; with a very slightly concave lip and recessed foot; carved with a continuous landscape scene with a scholar seated beneath a mature willow tree, a water buffalo nearby beneath a fruiting peach tree, and with a fisherman seated fishing on a rocky bank, his creel beside him, while a woodcutter stands beneath a pine tree on the opposite bank looking on, the carving of the rockwork ground continued beneath the foot
Master of the Rocks school, 1740–1850
Height: 5.45 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.91 and 1.89 cm (oval)
Stopper: jadeite; silver collar

Watercolour by Peter Suart

Gerd Lester (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 48
Galeries Lafayette 1990, p. 6, fig. 2
Kleiner 1995, no. 82
Treasury 1, no. 136

Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
Galeries Lafayette, Paris, April 1990
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
British Museum, London, June–October 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1997

This is a classic example of the Master of the Rocks school, carved from the brilliantly coloured material of the type favoured by this school. The subject of the four ideal occupations is the most popular subject from the classic group, although the composition is never repeated (see Sale 7, lot 32 and the other bottles referenced there). In this case, there is also an intriguing variation in the subject. Among the four members of the noble occupations, the farmer is actually missing but he is represented by his buffalo (see also Sale 2, lot 122, which makes the same substitution). The figure sitting at the foot of the ancient willow is a scholar, as indicated by his flowing gown and the book he is reading. The other two figures are also clearly identified, one with his bundle of sticks over his back, the other fishing with a rod and with a large basket to hand in which to place his catch.

All of the standard features of the classic group are present here, with the core colour cleverly used to distinguish only the water and the sky from the rest of the landscape while the rest of the carving is entirely out of the brown skin. The depth of carving through the layers of skin lends a variation in colour to the relief detail that separates it subtly from the ground plane. This gives the entire scene a stronger rustic feeling than we see in Sale 6, lot 144, for example.

In keeping with several of the finer works of the school, the rockwork design continues under the foot to form one edge of the footrim. Another intriguing feature of the carving of the rocks here is a subtle, if perhaps originally unintentional, reference to Suzhou style. Some of the characteristically simple incisions that are used so powerfully to delineate rocks by the Master of the Rocks school have a few dots carved into their length here, similar to serrated Suzhou rockwork. In keeping with the skill of the Master of the Rocks school in reducing things to their essence, however, they are fewer and less self-conscious and demanding than those of their Suzhou-school counterparts. That said, we pointed out under Sale 6, lot 175 that the group may have been produced in Suzhou but in different workshops from the currently identifiable Suzhou wares.


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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