3429
3429
AN EXCEPTIONAL CHENXIANGMU 'MYTHICAL BEAST' RUYI SCEPTRE
MING DYNASTY, LATE 16TH CENTURY
JUMP TO LOT
3429
AN EXCEPTIONAL CHENXIANGMU 'MYTHICAL BEAST' RUYI SCEPTRE
MING DYNASTY, LATE 16TH CENTURY
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Gems of Chinese Art from the Speelman Collection I

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Hong Kong

AN EXCEPTIONAL CHENXIANGMU 'MYTHICAL BEAST' RUYI SCEPTRE
MING DYNASTY, LATE 16TH CENTURY
masterfully carved and reticulated in the form of a gnarled branch issuing lingzhi, the head skilfully rendered with a mythical beast flanked by clusters of lingzhi, the curved shaft with a protruding section bearing clusters of lingzhi depicted with furling edges, above a further mythical beast clambering sinuously on the lower end of the shaft, the wood with a brownish-black patina
25.5 cm, 10 in.
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Provenance

Brian Harkins Oriental Art, London.

Catalogue Note

Ruyi sceptres made of the treasured chenxiangmu are extremely rare as the wood is brittle and thus difficult to carve. The present piece is outstanding for the level of detail and three-dimensionality the carver has managed to achieve. Chenxiangmu, also known as eaglewood or aloeswood, is one of the most valued types of wood in China due to its aromatic and medicinal qualities. It is formed in response to a parasitic mould infection, which causes the pale and odourless heartwood of aquilaria trees to produce a dark aromatic resin (aloes) that infuses the wood, resulting in this dense, dark and scented version. According to Sheila Riddell in Dated Chinese Antiquities 600-1650, London, 1979, p. 228, the best quality wood was sourced from modern-day Cambodia, according to Chau Ju-Kua, the renowned 12th century traveller.

Chenxiangmu was used for the production of scholarly objects, the appeal of the wood lying in both the beauty of the raw material as well as the elegant and unrestrained forms in which they were carved. Often fashioned into naturalistic forms, this style of decoration was a sophisticated play on the nature of the wood itself while highlighting the momentary nature of life. Due to its hard and fragile properties, chenxiangmu objects are vulnerable to cracking and generally formed by piecing together several small segments. Thus, the present sceptre is a rare extant example from the Ming dynasty which is particularly notable for its well-preserved condition. A smaller ruyi sceptre, but carved in simulation of a lingzhi head and attributed to the eighteenth century, was sold in these rooms, 8th April 2010, lot 1974; and another fashioned with finger citrons on the head, was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2012, lot 2388.

Additional chenxiangmu objects for the scholar’s table include a brushrest published in Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, pl. 199; three small libation cups included in Bo Gyllensvard, 'Two Yuan Silver Cups and Their Importance for Dating of Some Carvings in Wood and Rhinoceros Horn', Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, 1971, no. 43, pp. 223-233; another, from the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat collection, sold in these rooms, 8th October 2010, lot 2223; an incense holder sold in our New York rooms, 19th March 2007, lot 703, from the Albright Knox Art gallery, Buffalo, New York; and a carving of scholars within a boulder, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in Jiangxin yu xiangong Ming Qing diaoke zhan. Zhu mu guohe pian/Uncanny Ingenuity and Celestial Feats: The Carvings of Ming and Qing Dynasties: The Art of Bamboo, Wood and Fruit Stones, Taipei, 2009, pl. 26.

Gems of Chinese Art from the Speelman Collection I

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Hong Kong