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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 71 

Lot 71

Lot 71
Treasury 7, no. 1705 (‘Behind the Screen’)

Lapis lazuli, soapstone, mother-of-pearl, glass (turquoise, pale green, purple, and cream), and brown, black, gold, and cinnabar-red lacquer; with a flat lip and concave foot surrounded by a narrow flat foot rim; embellished on each main side, one with an adult and two young boys, one of whom holds a stick with a tassel tied to its top and stands behind the adult, who is standing behind a table set with a box, a ewer or teapot, a covered bowl, and a vase, holding the soapstone frame of a screen that encloses a landscape in black on a gold ground, with the second boy holding the other edge of the screen from behind, the other main side with three young boys around a rock platform on which stands an enormous covered vase with an animal-head spout releasing a dark liquid into a bowl held by one kneeling child while another stands behind him with a bucket hanging from his shoulder by a long strap, and the third boy walks away from the others carrying a covered vessel
Bottle: 1770–1880
Embellishment: Tsuda 津田Family, Kyoto, 1890–1941
Height: 6.4 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.69/1.43 cm
Stopper: carnelian; tortoiseshell collar

Dorothea Estey (1974)
Margaret Prescott Wise (no. 623)
Edgar and Roberta Wise (1995)
Robert Kleiner (1996)

Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996,no. 220
Treasury 7, no. 1705

Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996

This rare example on a lapis lazuli ground is from the earlier group of embellished wares by either Tsuda S­­­ōkan 津田宗貫 (1868 – 1834) or his son Tsuda Fukuya 津田復也 (spelling unconfirmed). The son learned his art from his father, probably from about 1920 until the father died in the 1930s; by then he would have been working closely alongside him for better than a decade, and his contribution to the finished products would have increased, making their styles indistinguishable.

One feature of the finest works, apart from their greater artistry and creative genius, is the use of a wider range of materials. Sometimes cinnabar-red lacquer, instead of being painted thinly onto the surface, is used for substantial sections and carved to shape. This would involve having thicknesses of cinnabar lacquer produced by an outside specialist, presumably, since this was a hazardous and tedious process involving somewhat unpleasant workshop conditions. These could then be carved into segments, in much the same way as soapstone was. In this case, red lacquer is used for the box set on the table.

Another unusual feature here, which also speaks of the flexibility and complexity of the finer earlier wares, is the depiction of a painting set in a screen. It is an imitation of a typical Chinese-style landscape, but on a gold-leaf background much favoured by followers of the Rimpa school of painting.

It seems likely that the two subjects here are made to be read together, since the youth walking away from the group on the side with the massive vase full of liquid of some sort, perhaps wine, only makes compositional sense if he is walking towards the figures on the other side. As a matter of fact, the adult with his hand on the screen seems to be expecting him, for his head is turned towards the narrow side around which the boy will come.

The commentary on this bottle in Treasury 7 identifies other published Tsuda bottles and attempts to categorize them to some extent. We add one correction here: the reference to Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993 should have listed only one bottle, no. 302.


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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