Lot 6 Lot 60 Lot 60 Lot 60 Lot 60 Lot 60 Lot 60

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part III  
Bonham's, Hong Kong, 25 May 2011: Lot 60 

Lot 60


Lot 60
Treasury 4, no. 573

An inside-painted glass ‘landscape’ snuff bottle

(‘Chanting Poetry in the Snow’)

Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed, convex foot surrounded by a protruding, rounded footrim; painted on one main and two narrow sides with Huang Chengyan on a donkey approaching a bridge over a river in a snowy landscape, his attendant walking behind him, inscribed with a poem in regular script, the other main side inscribed in regular script with the first thirty-two lines of the ‘Lanting Preface’, preceded by ‘Executed on a winter day in the year jihai’ and followed by the signature Gui Xianggu, with two token seals
Gui Xianggu, Beijing, late 1899 or early 1900
Height: 6.89 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.65/1.9 cm
Stopper: mother-of-pearl; coral collar (see condition report)

Lot 60 Provenance:
Robert Hall (1995)

Sin, Hui, and Kwong 1996, no. 290
Treasury 4, no. 573

The Tsui Museum of Art, Hong Kong, October 1996
Christie’s London, 1999

Lot 60 Commentary
On the ‘Lanting Preface’ and for Lin Yutang’s translation of it, see Sale 1, lot 28.

The poem is the one Huang Chengyan is intoning as he comes to see his son-in-law Zhuge Liang in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The episode is a comic one, as Liu Bei, who has pushed through the winter weather to persuade Zhuge Liang to advise him in his struggle against Cao Cao in the north and Sun Ce in the lower Yangzi region and has found Zhuge not at home, mistakes Huang for Zhuge and directs all his profuse expressions of humility and respect toward the wrong man. More than classic comedy is at stake here, however. The episode is also calculated to reinforce our picture of Liu Bei as a leader with a unique ability to recognize brilliant advisors and listen to what they have to teach him, an ability that will eventually compensate for his relatively weak position in that dark era of impending all-out war. The poem reads:

All night long the north wind blew cold;
Thick clouds portending snow gather over ten thousand li.
In the vast sky, snow floats in confusion and
Transforms completely the old look of the streams and mountains.
Lifting my head to observe the heavens,
I suspect the jade dragons must be in earnest combat.
Their scales falling off in great profusion
In an instant scatter all over the universe.
As I cross the small bridge on the back of a donkey,
I sigh in my solitude over the thinness of the plum blossoms.

When he tried, Gui was one of the more accomplished calligraphers among the large group of commercial painters who followed Zhou Leyuan into the field. His calligraphy does not have the elegance or flair of Ding Erzhong or Zhou Leyuan, nor the individuality of Ziyizi, nor yet the absolute control of Ma Shaoxuan at his best, but it is of a good standard and consistent, as is demonstrated here. Gui was also completely uninhibited about its use. Most artists who were not scholars themselves and well versed in the art from youth, tended to keep their inscriptions down to a bare minimum other than on rarer occasions, whereas Gui frequently inscribed long and complicated passages with great confidence, as he does here. The ‘Lanting Preface’ was a standard text and one that would have been judged against a large number of other versions by any literate Chinese of the day, and yet Gui was quite happy not only to attempt it, but to do so uninhibitedly and make rather a good job of it.


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=995&exhibition=8&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |