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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 92 

Lot 92

Lot 92                                                                                                       
Treasury 4, no. 606 (‘Portrait of Liang Dunyan’)

Glass and ink; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted on one main side with a portrait of Liang Dunyan 梁敦彥, the other main side blank
Ma Shaoxuan, Studio for Listening to the Qin, Ox Street district, Beijing , 1900–1907
Height: 6.4 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.61/1.55 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Dr and Mrs Louis E. Wolferz
Sotheby’s, New York, 3 October 1980, lot 125
Gerd Lester (1986)

JICSBS, December 1978, p. 10, fig. 28
Curtis 1980, p. 15, fig. 20
Kleiner 1987, no. 296
Ma Zengshan 1997, p. 55, fig. 41

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Christie’s, London, 1999

Liang Dunyan (1857 – 1924), a native of Guangdong, went with the Chinese Educational Mission to study in the United States until the mission was recalled in 1881. He eventually rose to become Minister of Foreign Affairs; in late 1910, he took his sons to the U.S. and left them in Hartford at the high school he had attended. When the 1911 Revolution broke out, he remained abroad. When he eventually returned, he worked for the restoration of the Qing but retired from politics when the mission proved hopeless. (See Edward J. M. Rhoads, Stepping Forth Into the World [Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011], and Curtis 1980 for more detailed information.)

This is one of a small number of Ma’s portraits that have no inscriptions whatsoever. This seems strange, as the bottles look incomplete and we cannot imagine that either Ma or his patrons would have ordered them that way when the standard for which Ma was famous was a painting on one side and a long inscription on the other. It is of course possible that this bottle was ordered without inscriptions, but it may also have remained unfinished. Dealing with the movers and shakers of a dynasty in turmoil during a period of intense political uncertainty must have been difficult at times. Such important and powerful people cannot have been easy to deal with, and if their attention was distracted by affairs of state from what was probably a minor indulgence for them, one might expect a few unfinished commissions. Perhaps whoever ordered this bottle provided the photograph but no suitable text for Ma to inscribe on the bottle, and it may never have been delivered.

There seems little doubt that this is among the earlier portraits, and Emily Byrne Curtis dates it to 1905–1910, although stylistically it seems that it might even be a little earlier.


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=2024&exhibition=14&ee_lang=eng


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