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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part IX  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 24 November 2014: Lot 29 

Lot 29

Lot 29
Treasury 4, no. 544 (‘Many Happy Returns’)

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 an idyllic landscape scene with two scholars strolling towards a riverside country residence in a summer landscape, inscribed Bingshen jiuyue fan Yuan ren fa 丙申九月仿元人法 (‘In the ninth month of the year bingshen in imitation of the method of a Yuan master’), the signature Erzhong 二仲 separated from the inscription and accompanied by one seal of the artist, Erzhong, in negative seal script, the other main side with a pair of cranes beside ancient pines, their upper branches lost in clouds above which the mid-day sun is seen, with lingzhi growing along the grassy bank on which the cranes strut
Ding Erzhong, Xuannan, Beijing, 1896
Height: 5.74 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.53 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Wing Hing, Hong Kong (1985)

Kleiner 1987, no. 254
Treasury 4, no. 544

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

The painting of the cranes and pine is exquisite, as we have come to expect of Ding in all his mature works, the pine being superbly painted with widely varied ink-tones and lovely brushwork. Notice how he has offset the paler dead branch ends on the left-hand side above the cranes’ heads, where he draws them in outline without wash, against the dark, black, tensile lines of the opposite side. It is a seemingly minor touch to vary the style and brushwork of his branches, but creates a major impact in terms of the balance and texture of the painting.

Another clever touch in terms of formal balance is created by the vermilion of the sun echoed by the heads of the two cranes. The trees set up a powerful diagonal from lower right to upper left, while the ground plane creates an opposite diagonal, emphasized by the one crane leaning forward to peck at the ground. These three strong vermilion elements balance those diagonals with a third, less radical one that is picked up by the subsidiary branch of the upper tree trunk.

The consummate artist creates such formal balances often without conscious thought, but that ability to do so is a strong part of what makes a consummate artist, and there is no questioning Ding’s standing on this score. His compositional sense is as masterful as his technical skill.

There is possibly a hint of Ding’s debt to Zhou Leyuan in the predominantly blue palette here, which is unusual for his landscapes, although it occurs in other subjects from time to time (see, for instance, the pine and deer of Sale 6, lot 125). As a rule, where he used blue in his landscapes it was as a wash alternating with sepia in the traditional manner to allow separation between rock or mountain forms. This is obvious, for instance, in lot 193 in the present auction, where it is rewarding to switch off landscape perception and view the painting as an abstract made up primarily of form, colour, and line. Here, however, Ding uses blue on its own, varying only its strength in order to emphasize the forms. The style is still entirely his own, but the use of the blue palette gives the appearance of bringing it closer to Zhou’s, and we wonder whether he would have shifted out of the traditional literati use of blue in the landscape were it not for the influence of Zhou Leyuan.


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=2094&exhibition=14&ee_lang=eng


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