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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 67 

Lot 67

Lot 67
Treasury 4, no. 547 (‘Rustic Brushwork in a Rustic World’)

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and a recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened foot rim; painted with a continuous lakeside landscape in which two scholars stand together on a stone bridge beneath three trees, two of which are pines, and a third figure sits in a boat beyond a group of houses set on an island where three more large trees of various kinds grow, the distance with towering peaks, inscribed Dingyou dongyue Shangchu renxiong daren zhengzhi 丁酉冬月尚初仁兄大人正之二仲 (‘Eleventh month of the year dingyou, by Erzhong for the corrections of the honourable elder brother Shangchu’), with one seal of the artist, Erzhong, in negative seal script
Ding Erzhong, Xuannan, Beijing, eleventh month, 1897
Height: 6.7 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.6/1.7 cm
Stopper: jadeite; tourmaline finial; vinyl collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 257
Treasury 4, no. 547

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

This magnificent landscape painting from the winter of 1897 is of an unusual style for Ding. It is painted in a rather looser manner than usual with as little linear outline as in any of his landscapes. Edges of rock formations are blurred together and integrated in a rather impressionistic manner that is vaguely reminiscent of the style of Kuncan 髡殘, the early-Qing master. No reference is given to indicate Ding’s inspiration here, which is strange in so different a style. As a rule, he quotes his sources, and it seems unlikely that he would suddenly produce a landscape in a style so different from his standard modes of painting without referring to his inspiration.

Whoever inspired him, the painting is superb and one of his great landscape masterpieces, which from an artist from whom masterpieces are standard and expected, is saying something. The overall feeling is irrefutably rustic in both senses of the word as it applies to Chinese painting. It is a rustic setting, obviously, but the term also applies to a mode of painting, and it is probably here that we see the similarities with Kuncan. He was renowned for his rustic style, where heavily worked paintings, overlaid with line, wash, and textural dabs of foliage, appear to be entirely natural and spontaneously achieved in the brushwork style appropriate to the naturalness of the setting. The term ‘rustic’ is a high compliment in Chinese art.

The flat lip here is unusual for the standard glass blanks used by most of the Beijing artists, which may have been made in Shandong province at the glass-making town of Boshan 博山. As a rule, when these bottles have a flat lip rather than a concave one, it indicates that chips have been removed and that whoever repaired the bottle decided not to go to the bother of recreating a concave lip when it was so much easier to just grind the lip flat. Many of our bottles have had minor damage fixed, and as long as the impact of the original work of art is not compromised it makes no difference and is quite acceptable. This is even truer of an inside-painted snuff bottle, where all we are talking about is a minor adjustment to the frame of the work of art.

Shangchu remains unidentified.


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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