Although unsigned, its distinctive composition and rendering of carved details demonstrated the carver’s awareness of contemporaneous works by celebrated bamboo masters such as Wu Zhifan and Gu Jue. In fact, the representations are so close that the creator of this brushpot could very probably be a follower or amongst the close circle of these masters. Compare a Wu Zhifan bamboo brushpot decorated with a scene of washing horses, with a closely related composition and similar zigzag orientation of the pine boughs, formerly in the Qing court collection and now in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo. Wood. Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Shanghai, 2001, pl. 31; another brushpot carved with a similar subject is included ibid., pl. 33. See also a bamboo brushpot by Gu Jue, with analogous treatment to the scaled bark and truncated roots to the pine trees, sold at Woolley and Wallis Salisbury, 23rd May 2012, lot 191.
The scene depicts groomsmen attending to the legendary eight horses of Mu Wang. It is said that Mu Wang travelled around his kingdom in a chariot drawn by eight mighty horses in search of the heavenly paradise. The eight horses were all given a distinctive name and were eventually liberated from their harnesses and let out to graze after many years of faithful service to the king.
This brushpot had a long history in the West, where its provenance can be traced back to the 1960s. Not only did it pass through the hands of two eminent dealers in London, Bluett & Sons and Hugh Moss, it also belonged to the collection of Mrs Irene Dreyfus, who had originally collected the legendary Chenghua doucai ‘chicken cup’, sold at a record-breaking price in our rooms on 8th April 2014, lot 1.
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