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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 97 

Lot 97

Lot 97
Treasury 4, no. 616 (‘Wistfully Pondering Marital Harmony’)

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted on one main side and one narrow side with a young woman holding a circular fan looking out of a circular window into a garden, with the branches of a flowering tree overhanging a rock formation and some flowering peonies, the other main and narrow sides with blooming chrysanthemums, two radishes, a lotus root, a pair of water chestnuts, a white flower, possibly an aster, and a crab, inscribed in regular- cursive script Yiwei jingshi Yan Yutian zuo 乙未京師閆玉田作(‘Executed at the capital by Yan Yutian in the year yiwei’), with one seal of the artist, Yutian, in negative seal script
Yan Yutian, Chongwen district, Beijing, 1895
Height: 6.15 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.58/1.51 cm
Stopper: jadeite; vinyl collar
Height: 6.61 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.46 cm

Jade House, Hong Kong (1985)

Treasury 4, no. 616

Christie’s, London, 1999

This is one of Yan Yutian’s rarer and more impressive subjects. Even the side decorated with various auspicious symbols is of an unusual selection and composition, but the lady leaning languidly out of her window gazing wistfully at a blossoming tree is unrecorded elsewhere in his output.

Even for an artist who favoured the use of white in his palette, this is an exception where the colour predominates to give the impression of an exercise in painting with white and ink alone. There is a pale sepia wash used to define the lip of the circular window out of which the young woman leans, the chestnuts are painted in brown, and there is the palest wash of brown mixed in with white on the lotus root to give it body, but otherwise, the whole painting relies on only ink and white pigment.

This may seem a dangerous use of so much white in a tobacco-staining environment, but in this case we are fortunate that the bottle is in almost studio condition. The white retains its original qualities.

This glass bottle is typical of the Beijing school of Zhou Leyuan, and we can assume that the same workshops supplied all of these Beijing artists at the turn of the century. Yan used glass predominantly throughout his career; most of it was in this typical Beijing-style bottle, although he did use other shapes occasionally. Later in his career he also produced a series of much larger, more globular bottles, probably from the same source despite the difference in form. These large bottles are seldom as exciting as his smaller ones, and it is possible that they were produced as much for tourists, who were becoming more commonplace in Beijing in the early years of the twentieth century, as for serious snuff-takers.


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=2215&exhibition=17&ee_lang=eng


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