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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 75 

Lot 75

Lot 75
Treasury 4, no. 563 (‘A Parrot in a Peach Tree’)
HK$68,750

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a slightly concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted on one main side with a parrot in the branches of a blossoming peach tree, the other main side with a chun 椿tree entwined with creepers, inscribed in regular script Bai Langchen zuo 白朗宸作, ‘Executed by Bai Langchen’), with one seal of the artist, yin 印 (‘seal’), in negative seal script
Bai Langchen, Beijing, 1894–1940
Height: 6.22 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.60/1.54 cm
Stopper: glass; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Arts of China (1987)
Blossom and Hugh Moss (gift, 1987)

Published:
Kleiner 1995, no. 429
Treasury 4, no. 563

Exhibited:
British Museum, London, June–November 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997
Christie’s, London, 1999

Bai Langchen is an intriguing artist who holds the record among inside-painted snuff-bottle artists for the longest career devoted to producing practically nothing.

He worked for almost as long as Ye Zhongsan, and yet there are only 15 surviving works recorded. His earliest dated bottle is from 1894; and example dated to 1896 is recorded; and then there is a long gap, possibly filled, albeit sparsely, by some of his eleven undated examples, until 1930 when he dated a bottle painted with butterflies on one side and scholars in a lakeside pavilion on the other. There is one other bottle dated to 1940 recorded by Hugh Moss in the 1960s from the Beijing Arts and Crafts Corporation. Two of the undated bottles are inscribed ‘Executed by Bai Langchen at the age of seventy,’ which must come from the end of his career, perhaps in the 1930s or early 1940s.

That is the sum total of his long career as an artist.

Bai Langchen’s work could never be described as masterly, even by the most charitable critic, but he was a competent painter whose largely decorative output includes the occasional more impressive work. One intriguing feature of his output is that during his long career he never improved. His earliest bottle is one of his best and is every bit as impressive as his later works. Presumably his lack of progress is due to the fact that he painted too infrequently to develop as an artist in this medium.  It may be an indication that he was not a commercial painter dependent upon his art for a living.

This is one of Bai Langchen’s finest works, in a lovely glass bottle with two unique subjects for the artist, both related to a wish for longevity.

Bai Langchen’s name is sometimes seen with a spelling that reflects the correct ‘literary’ reading of his name: Bo Langchen.

 

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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