Bamboo carvings flourished in the late Ming dynasty thanks to the great technical skill and artistic creativity of members of the Zhu family in Jiading, who pioneered a distinctive style that remained popular through to the Qing period. The so-called ‘reduced ground mass with raised relief’ technique seen on this piece was popular among bamboo carvers of the late Ming and early Qing dynasty. This style was first developed by the renowned and highly influential master carved Zhu Sansong, active from the late Ming dynasty. Complex compositions featuring round and smooth cuts in varying levels of relief are characteristic of this style.
A slightly larger brushpot carved with scholars in a secluded landscape, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Shanghai, 2001, pl. 29; one of slightly smaller size, carved with immortals, also in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is published in The Palace Museum Collection of Elite Carvings, Beijing, 2002, pl. 25; and a third, depicting Su Dongpo’s (1037-1101) excursion to the Red Cliff, from the collection of Simon Kwan, was included in the exhibition Ming and Qing Bamboo, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2000, cat. no. 28. Compare also two brushpots from the Feng Wen Tang collection, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 3rd May 2015, lots 2809 and 2828, the former carved with the ‘Red Cliff’, and the latter with a related motif of scholars in landscape.
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