Sotheby's Hong Kong, 27th May 1980, lot 883.
Eskenazi Ltd., London.
Sotheby's Hong Kong, 19th November 1984, lot 88.
Collection of Dr. Ip Yee.
Banshan (Halfway up the mountain) is an art name that was used by several artists. It was a particularly popular hao, as it could be associated with the Chinese concept of the 'middle way'. A boxwood brushpot signed Banshan was included in the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong exhibition Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, cat. no. 34.
This exquisitely carved buffalo horn cup is one of the finest published examples in the medium. In China, buffalo horn has long been considered the inexpensive substitute for the more precious rhinoceros, because of its lesser medicinal qualities. However, to the scholarly elite of the late Ming dynasty and to their followers, the modesty of the material was appealing, a result of the Daoist trend for naturalism, as well as the deeply ingrained Confucian sense for the unostentatious. From the 16th century, master craftsmen produced exquisite works of art from familiar materials such as bamboo and horn. Except for pottery, there are only a few instances in which the nobility of the work results from the uncanny contrast with the modesty of the material.
The finely layered, albeit relatively shallow, relief work on the present cup is representative of early Qing dynasty carving and relates closely to workmanship associated with bamboo rather than rhinoceros horn. The detailed treatment of the figures, trees and the strength of the rockwork relate closely to the school of Gu Jue, the celebrated Kangxi period carver. See for example a brushpot exhibited at the Hong Kong Museum of Art and published by Yip Yee and Laurence C. S. Tam in Chinese Bamboo Carving, Part I, Hong Kong, 1978, cat. no.19, and a larger example from the Mary and George Bloch Collection sold in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 5.The subject matter of a boy on a buffalo is seldom encountered as a design on brushpots, and appears more often as a sculpture in the round, for example, two bamboo carvings from the Lutz collection at the Denver Art museum, exhibited and illustrated by Yip and Tam in Chinese Bamboo Carving, Part I, Hong Kong, 1978, cat. no. 191 and 192.
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