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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 82 

Lot 82

Lot 82
Treasury 4, no. 489 (‘Zhou Leyuan’s Pine Retreat’)

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 a scholar seated at the open window of a country retreat straddling a stream fed by two torrents and set amidst pines and other trees, with distant mountains beyond, the other main side with four minnows swimming in a pond beneath flowering lotus plants, inscribed in draft script Zhou Leyuan hua 周樂元畫 ‘Painted by Zhou Leyuan’), with one seal of the artist, yuan yin 元印 (‘seal of yuan’)
Zhou Leyuan, Studio of Lotus-root Fragrance, Xuannan, Beijing, 1890 or early 1891
Height: 6.1 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.55/1.54 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Hugh M. Moss Ltd (1985)

Treasury 4, no. 489

Christie’s, London, 1999

This bottle can be dated with reasonable confidence even though it is undated by the artist. The landscape is in his classic late style and it might have been done in 1891 or possibly even 1892. The subject of the fish and lotus, however, is more in keeping with those painted in 1890. This type of lotus design was painted again occasionally after 1890, but usually without the minnows. There is one recorded from 1891 with swallows flying above the lotus, and another with dragonflies from the same year. There are even examples from 1892, but the minnows, which also appear on lot 131 in this auction (dated to the mid-summer of 1890), seem to have been favoured in 1890.

The last and most concrete clue as to its correct date is to be found in the small-scale, delicate calligraphy. Little as there is of it, it is much more in keeping with the lovely Sale 1, lot 91, dated to the autumn of 1890, where the signature is written in very much the same manner, with the same final flourish to the character ‘yuan.’

This is a superb example of Zhou’s late classic landscapes, which were fully evolved by 1890 and which he painted fairly frequently until his last known work in the spring of 1893.

On the other main side, the four minnows are among Zhou’s finest. Although among the tiniest fish he painted, they are often his best and they always create a dynamic pattern in their own right.


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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