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photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part VII  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2013: Lot 126 

Lot 126

Lot 126
Treasury7, no. 1608 (‘Jet Scholarship’)

Jet; with a flat lip and recessed flat, elongated-oval foot surrounded by a protruding flat, elongated-oval footrim; engraved on one main side with an inscription in seal script followed in running script by ‘Jin Nong made this to amuse himself when he was an old man after returning to his native place from the capital’, and on the other, in more cursive running script, with a poetic inscription followed by ‘Composed by Zhucha, Zhu Yizun’
Height: 6.72 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.57/1.78 cm
Stopper: peach-stone or olive-pit, carved with three figures, probably intended to be boys, in what appears to be a garden setting; gilt silver collar

David Dunkerley (1980)
Sotheby’s, New York (PB84), 28 May 1980, lot 99
Robert Hall (1985)

Treasury 7, no. 1608

This unusual black material was thought to be wood at the time it was acquired for the collection, probably ebony or a similar Southeast Asian hardwood. It is without visible grain, however; what appears to be grain at first sight is a network of scratches acquired through use and running randomly in all directions. But it takes the metal chisels of the engraver of soft materials in a fashion very similar to jet, even though it lacks the usual glossy polish so often found with this material.

Pedersen 2004 notes that jet varies considerably in different deposits around the world. The material from China is not as fine as jet from some other sources and does not take a polish so readily, she states. This example best fits that characterization of native jet. If it was not immediately recognized as such, perhaps it is because the evidence of the majority of Chinese jet bottles indicates that most jet used for this art form took a polish very well indeed and was of the highest quality. It may have been imported. (The finer material was valued and expensive and was indeed said to come from the Turfan region in Turkestan, but whether that meant it was mined there or simply passed through there from points further west is unclear.)

The name of Jin Nong (1687–1763), one of the famous Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, was often added to fakes. On the other hand, several surviving pieces are reasonably attributable to his hand with confidence. (See, for instance, the boxwood brush pot from the Jiansong ge Collection sold at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, 11 April 2008, lot 2707, now in the Franz Collection.)

On the side bearing the Jin Nong inscription claiming he wrote it to amuse himself after returning from the capital, the two lines in seal script read:

With the purity of jade;
With the essence of the moon.

The other side gives the first two lines of a quatrain by the important earlier scholar and poet Zhu Yizun (hao Zhucha; 1687 – 1763). The quatrain is the third of one hundred poems dated 1674, under the title ‘Rowing Song for Mandarin Duck Lake’.

Songs from the state of Wu are heard everywhere in the city in springtime.
Across the river silhouettes of beautiful women are seen through the
thinly woven blinds.

(In Zhu’s collected works, the women behind the blinds appear on both sides of the river.)


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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