Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 128 Lot 129

photographer E-Yaji.
The Mary and George Bloch Collection: Part X  
Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 1 June 2015: Lot 128 

Lot 128

Lot 128
Treasury 4, no. 603 (‘Treasures in a Gourd’)

Flawless crystal, ink, and watercolours; carved in the form of a double gourd, the lower bulb squared with four raised panels, each with foliate corners, with a slightly concave lip and recessed, slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flattened foot rim; painted in the lower bulb of one main side with a rectangular album leaf of a bird in the branches of a flowering tree, bearing the signature Bada shanren 八大山人 and one token seal, mounted together on a figured silk ground with a rubbing of a regular-script calligraphic specimen by Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢 (557 – 641), the upper bulb inscribed in regular script with a four-line poem followed by Ma Shaoxuan 馬少宣, with one seal of the artist, Shao, in negative seal script, and in the lower bulb of the other main side with a folding fan not mounted on a frame, painted with a pair of goldfish swimming among aquatic plants, inscribed Yisi dongri Sima Zhong zuo 乙巳冬日司馬鍾作 (‘Executed by Sima Zhong on a winter day in the year yisi’), with one token seal above a specimen of calligraphy in regular script followed by Dinghai dongri Xu Fu 丁亥冬日,徐郙 (‘Xu Fu on a winter day in the year dinghai’), the upper bulb inscribed with a poem followed by one seal of the artist in negative seal script, xuan
Bottle: 1740–1850
Painting: Ma Shaoxuan, Ox Street district, Beijing, 1895–1905
Height: 6.55 cm
Mouth/lip: 0.70/1.22 cm
Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar

Wing Hing, Hong Kong (1986)

Kleiner 1987, no. 291
Kleiner 1995, no. 416
Treasury 4, no. 603

Sydney L. Moss Ltd, London, October 1987
Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
British Museum, London, June–November 1995
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July–November 1997
Christie’s, London, 1999

We believe that this was an earlier blank bottle acquired by Ma for painting, despite the raised frames on the lower, rectangular bulb, which would seem ideal to contain a painting. Other bottles of this form are known (see, for instance, White 1990, Pl. 46, no. 3), and there is even one that is very similar to this, complete with the raised panels of the lower bulb (Au Hang 1993, no. 137).

The bird-on-a-branch painting bearing the name Bada shanren appears on Sale 3, lot 37, dated 1897, as does the rubbing, although in a different position. This appears to be a painting from reasonably early in Ma’s career, an impression borne out by the calligraphy, which is not quite as controlled and elegant as his finest writing from the first decade of the twentieth century onwards.

Bada shanren is the sobriquet of Zhu Da 朱耷 (1624–1705), one of the four celebrated monk-painters active during the early Qing period. The rubbing is of two incomplete sentences composed and written in regular script and quoted from Ouyang Xun’s composition, for which see Sale 2, lot 154, and Sale 3, lot 37.

The poem above the painting is one of the few by the sixth-century poet Jiang Zong 江總 to have stood the test of time. It was written when he was about to leave the capital (in the vicinity of modern Xi’an) and return southward to the Yangzhou area. The date was the ninth day of the ninth month, when one traditionally enjoyed the chrysanthemums and thought of home:


My heart chases after the southbound clouds disappearing.
My form follows the geese from the north that come.
The chrysanthemums at the hedge in my old home-
How many are in bloom today?

On the other side, the folding fan painted with fish bears the signature of a nineteenth-century artist known for bird-and-flower paintings, Sima Zhong. One painting of his dated 1844 is in the National Palace Museum Sima Zhong’s dates are unknown, but the cyclical date yisi on this fan painting probably corresponds to 1869; 1809 would be too early to fit with his other dated works.

The poem below the fan is by Xu Hun 許渾 (b. 791?); however, as a work of calligraphy, it is signed by Xu Fu (1836 – 1896), a respected scholar, official, and calligrapher. The ‘winter day’ of the dinghai year during Xu Fu’s lifetime could have been any day from 15 November 1887 through 11 February 1888.


On the hills before me, chill of breeze and rain.
To rest my horse, I sit beneath the trailing willows.
Somewhere lotus blossoms are dropping:
In the southern canal, the autumn waters have turned fragrant.

The poem in the upper bulb is a quatrain of six-syllable lines by Wang Wei 王維 (d. 761):


Below the hills, a lone smoke, a distant village;
At the border of the sky, a single tree, a high plateau.
A Yan Hui with a single gourd in a humble alley;
The Master of Five Willows in the facing house.

Yan Hui, one of the disciples of Confucius, was famous for his equanimity in poverty—a single gourd for drinking being one of his few possessions. Wang Wei is probably comparing himself with Yan Hui. The Master of the Five Willows refers to Tao Yuanming 陶淵明, the recluse and chrysanthemum lover of the Eastern Jin period (317–420), credited with creating the genre of ‘Field and Garden’ poetry. Wang Wei’s poem is the fifth of seven poems under the title ‘The Joys of Field and Garden’, so it is appropriate for him to pretend that Tao lives right across the alley from him.


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


Easy link to this page: http://www.e-yaji.com/auction/photo.php?photo=2397&exhibition=17&ee_lang=eng


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Hugh Moss |