of square form, surmounted by a recumbent mythical beast with a dragon head and a turtle body, the scaly neck and mane of the dragon and the upper shell of the turtle detailed with fine incisions, its head tilted to one side with large bead eyes and flaring nostrils, the seal face reading Xiang Zijing Yin (Seal of Xiang Zijing), suffused with a network of crackles in concentric circles
Collection of Adrian Maynard.
Thence by descent.
This expertly modelled seal, outstanding for its lively carving of a mythical beast, bears the name Xiang Yuanbian (1525-1590) who was also known as Zijing and Molin jushi. One of the most important and active art collectors of the Ming dynasty, he was a native of Jiaxing in Zhejiang province, who combined his extensive knowledge and impeccable taste in painting and calligraphy to create a profitable art business. His collection is often referred to as Tianlai ge
(Hall of Heavenly Sounds), and included highly important works, many of which later entered the Qing Court collection and are now held in the Palace Museum in Beijing and the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Xiang often impressed his personal seals to the works in his collection, occasionally also adding lengthy inscriptions.
An ivory seal carved with a recumbent mythological animal similarly modelled with its head slightly turned to its side, was included in the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong exhibition Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Fung Ping Shan, Hong Kong, 1986, cat. no. 221; and another attributed to the Yongle period, was sold in our London rooms, 19th June 1984, lot 98. See also seals carved with mythological animals facing forward, such as two sold in our London rooms, the first included in the Oriental Ceramic Society exhibition The Arts of the Ming Dynasty, London, 1957, cat. no. 363, sold 14th December 1976, lot 206, and the second from the collection of Sir Herbert and Lady Ingram, 8th June 1993, lot 155; and a pair sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 28th November 2005, lot 1451.
Adrian Maynard joined Spink & Sons in 1947, where he was appointed Director from 1962 and eventually Deputy Chairman until his retirement in 1984.