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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 65 

Lot 65

Lot 65
Treasury 4, no. 518 (‘No Particular Melody’)

Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded foot rim; painted with a continuous riverside landscape with a willow and a pine tree on grassy banks, with a herdboy playing his flute seated on the back of his water buffalo as it wades through the shallow river, and three more boys on the fore-shore playing with crickets, inscribed in draft script Wuxu xiafu zuo yu dumen, Ye Zhongsan 戊戌夏伏作於都門,葉仲三 (‘Executed by Ye Zhongsan at the capital in the sixth month of the year wuxu’), with one seal of the artist, huayin 畫印 (‘painting seal’), in negative seal script
Ye Zhongsan, Apricot Grove Studio, Chongwen district, Beijing, sixth month, 1898
Height: 5.98 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.62/1.42 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Wing Hing, Hong Kong (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 273
Treasury 4, no. 518

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
Christie’s, London, 1999

In an earlier publication, it was suggested that this was an early nineteenth-century plain crystal brought to Ye for painting by a client. We believe this is unlikely for three reasons. We know of no unpainted crystal bottles of this shape to suggest that it existed as a plain form in crystal; the bright crystal and the detailing are sufficiently similar to Sale 1, lot 71, and Sale 7, lot 44, to suggest they may have been made by the same workshop; and, perhaps most convincingly, these waisted panels on each main side are ideal picture frames but make less sense for a plain bottle.

Panels of this shape are common enough in pictorial inlays in screens and furniture and even on ceramics from the Qing dynasty. They are taken from the shape of certain fancy windows designed to frame the ‘paintings’ of nature beyond the window.

It is perhaps more likely that as Ye gained in artistic power and the demand for his works increased accordingly, as it obviously did from 1895 onwards, he began to have fancier crystal bottles made and charge more for his works.

Although the subject of the boy on the water buffalo is a repeat of Zhou’s; it appears in a similar pose but with varied settings on Sale 5, lot 30 and Sale 8, lot 1125. Regardless of the model, there could be no question here that it is Ye’s hand on the brush, with or without the signature.

The three children on the foreground bank are Ye’s addition. They carry with them the paraphernalia that centres on fighting crickets, each insect being contained in a summer ‘cage’ consisting of a cylindrical box, usually made of a fired refined clay with a heavy flat lid.

The trees look rather stark here, particularly the pine, but this is because the colours have faded a bit, which also gives the impression that the far bank is made up only of the black dabs for grass, whereas in fact there is a pale blue wash behind them.

The unusual shape of the bright crystal and the delicate painting make this one of Ye’s more intriguing bottles from the year 1898.


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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