Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 90

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 9 

Lot 9

Lot 9
Treasury 4, no. 557 (‘Ding Erzhong’s Nanjing Documents’)

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and a recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding, irregularly flattened foot rim; painted on one main side with a collection of damaged or partially folded ink rubbings and writings surrounding a burned painting fragment depicting a horse in a landscape, scratching behind its ear with its hind-leg, inscribed Renyin xiaoyang yue mo ji zizhi [illegible] lüeh si. Renzhi ershu daren jiaozheng. Ding Shangyu 壬寅小陽月摹集字紙[?]略似,仁趾二叔大人教正 宁尚庾 [‘In the tenth month of the year renyin, I copied a collection of paper with characters on it; [illegible character] it is pretty accurate. For the corrections of honourable second uncle Renzhi, Ding Shangyu’], followed by seals of the artist, Ding in negative regular script and Erzhong in negative seal script, the other main side with an inscription in clerical script followed in cursive script by Erzhong Ding shangyu zuo yu Jinling 二仲丁尚庾作作於金陵 (‘Done by Erzhong, Ding Shangyu, at Jinling’) with one seal of the artist, Erzhong, in negative seal script
Ding Erzhong, Nanjing, tenth month, 1902
Height: 5.68 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.7/1.7 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; silver collar

Gerry Mack Collection
Robert Kleiner & Co., Ltd
White Wings Collection (1998)

Chinese Snuff Bottles 3 (1966), p. 56, fig. 68, and p. 61, fig. 81
Kleiner 1994a, plate 23
Kleiner 1997, p. 246, no. 170
Treasury 4, no. 557

Christie’s, London, 1999

From early in his career Ding included in his repertoire paintings of miscellaneous fragments of calligraphy, paintings, and other paper artefacts. The earlier examples of this consist of two or three separate documents, sometimes a painting, and sometimes either a rubbing of an ancient inscription or a rubbing of ancient tile ends with inscriptions on them. (See Sale 2, lot 101, for instance.) As he developed the subject, however, it became more complicated and culminated in the masterpieces painted between 1898 and 1905 — the last, one of his great masterpieces of the genre, in the J & J Collection (Moss, Graham, and 1993, no. 418). For more on this subject, called Bapo 八破 among other terms, see also Sale 4, lot 40 and Berliner 1992.

Ding’s later paintings of documents and rubbings are all masterpieces, and this is no exception. They are also all combined with a good deal of calligraphy in either his characteristic draft script or the impressive clerical script seen on the present bottle, which is a quotation of the beginning of the Yueyanglou ji 岳陽樓紀 (‘An Account of the Yueyang Tower’) by the Song writer and politician Fan Zhongyan 范仲淹 (989–1052):


予觀夫巴陵勝狀,在洞庭一湖。銜遠山,吞長江,浩浩湯湯 ·····ˉ

In the spring of the fourth year of the Qingli era (1044), Teng [Zongliang 宗諒, courtesy name] Zijing was exiled to act as prefect of old Baling Commandery. A year later, the administration ran smoothly and the people were in harmony, and abandoned projects were all revived. And so they restored Yueyang Tower, enlarging its scale and engraving on it the poems and rhapsodies of Tang worthies and present-day writers. I was enlisted to write this essay to commemorate it.

In my opinion, the most enchanting aspect of Baling is Lake Dongting, [which the tower overlooks]. It takes in the distant mountains and swallows the Yangzi River, vast and roiling ….

Jinling is the old name for Nanjing. The only other bottle inscribed as being done at Nanjing is Sale 8, lot 1182, from the winter of 1903. The last positive identification with either Beijing or Xuannan appears in the winter of 1898, on the magnificent bottle from the Kreuger Collection inscribed with and illustrating the ‘Lanting Preface’. It has an additional inscription dated to the summer of 1901 where Ding notes that he was visiting Wumen 吳門, the Suzhou area, close to Nanjing and far from Beijing.

J. H. Leung (A New Look of Chinese Inside-painted Snuff Bottles, 1990) was informed by a descendent of Ding that he believed Ding moved from Beijing to Nanjing at some time during 1900; this is consistent with what the bottles tell us.


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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Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 9 Lot 90


Hugh Moss |