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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 68 

Lot 68

Lot 68
Treasury 1, no. 135 (‘The Master of the Rocks Magu Jade’)
HK$150,000

Nephrite of pebble material; well hollowed, with a concave lip and elongated, slightly recessed convex foot with a broad foot rim; carved with a continuous scene of turbulent waves in which the immortal Magu 麻姑is seated, leaning against a wine jar on a raft made of a mature pine, from the branches of which hangs a double gourd, the immortal gazing out over a small, distant rock in the water from which foliage grows below two bats, one of which is set against an area of formalized clouds
Master of the Rocks school, 1740–1850
Height: 6.11 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.58/2.55 and 2.4 cm (oval)
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Provenance:
Trojan Collection
Robert Hall (1993)

Published:
Hall 1992, no. 11
Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 55
Treasury 1, no. 135

Exhibited:
Hong Kong Museum of Art, March–June 1994
National Museum, Singapore, November 1994–February 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997

Magu, who is easily recognized by the chignon tied atop her head, long strands of hair hanging down to her waist, and long fingernails, enjoyed continued popularity over the centuries as a maiden Immortal. For a lengthy discussion of Magu with several portrayals of her in various media, see Tsang 1992.

Although this snuff bottle is from the Master of the Rocks school, this is not the school’s normal material. The skin and core colour of the pebble are used in one of the standard ways for the school, with the principal design concentrated entirely in the skin areas and the core serving as sky, but the colour is different. But the school did not limit itself to only one type of nephrite, and there are even a few examples known in atypical material without any skin.

This large, broad form is also one of the staples for the group, although apparently carved by a different hand from the classic examples of, say, Sale 1, lot 45; Sale 2, lot 122; Sale 6, lot 144; and Sale 7, lots 32 and 74. There are also three black-and-white nephrite bottles that are of the same school and also of this large, broad form (see Hall 1989, no. 128, decorated with typical turbulent water, thin, wispy clouds, pines and rocks, but extending the stylistic repertoire with a bizarre dwelling that is delightful in its naïveté and with cross-hatched foliage on one tree; Hall 1991, no. 37, a delightful windswept scene with the unusual subject of willows, but also with typical rocks and wispy, elongated clouds, and Christie’s, New York, 3 June 1993, lot 316, a large black-and-white nephrite bottle with Meng Haoran searching for prunus blossoms in the snow).

These larger bottles seem to constitute an alternative group for the school, perhaps an evolution in time or the works of a different governing artistic spirit in the workshop.

One of the features of this sub-group is the extraordinary confidence and power of the designs. On the broader canvas the artist always manages to create dynamic subjects full of flowing energy, embodied in either water or wind or both. Here, the turbulent waves carry the main burden of this vitality, but it is also picked up in the wind-whipped clouds in which one bat flies. It is also brilliantly suggested by the bat carved out of the core material, which looks as if it were being buffeted by the invisible wind that sweeps across the surface, its pose suggesting that momentarily the wind is master of the bat rather than the other way around.

In common with the broader group of this school, this bottle is very well hollowed, in this case through an unusually small mouth.

The skin colour of this pebble, in common with the majority from the school, is entirely natural without any of the artificial staining so common on court products of the Qianlong period and probably thereafter.

For related bottles, see Friedman 1990, no. 76 (which has a house of similar style to the black-and-white example noted above); Perry 1960, no. 90 (for a similar subject, but with the addition of a crane in the log-boat); Au Hang 1993, no. 127 (a similar subject but with the Immortal punting the log-boat); Hall 1993a, no. 21 (similar subject); White 1990, p. 25, no. 3 (same subject, but with an additional crane), and Christie’s, New York, 29 November 1990, lot 127, also subsequently offered by Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 29 April 1992, lot 549 (of similar form with an unusual design that also has cross-hatched trees).

 

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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