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Details & Cataloguing

Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection, Scholarly Art III

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Hong Kong

A TIANHUANG SOAPSTONE FIGURE OF GUANYIN IN A GROTTO
BY ZHOU BIN
17TH CENTURY
LATER INSCRIPTION BY LIU YONG (1719-1804) IN 1795
THIS IS A PREMIUM LOT. CLIENTS WHO WISH TO BID ON PREMIUM LOTS MAY BE REQUESTED BY SOTHEBY'S TO COMPLETE THE PRE-REGISTRATION APPLICATION FORM AND TO DELIVER TO SOTHEBY'S A DEPOSIT OF HK$2,500,000, OR SUCH OTHER HIGHER AMOUNT AS MAY BE DETERMINED BY SOTHEBY'S, AND ANY FINANCIAL REFERENCES, GUARANTEES AND/OR SUCH OTHER SECURITY AS SOTHEBY'S MAY REQUIRE IN ITS ABSOLUTE DISCRETION AS SECURITY FOR THE BID. THE BIDnow ONLINE BIDDING SERVICE IS NOT AVAILABLE FOR PREMIUM LOTS.

the stone of golden-orange and mottled-grey tones, deftly carved with the deity Guanyin sitting on a recumbent Buddhist lion with curly fur, her serene face framed with a neatly-combed coiffure covered by a long veil, holding a vase in her right hand and a sprig of willow in the other, wearing a loose-fitting robe covering both shoulders and draping in dense folds, seated in lalitasana with her right foot resting on a blooming lotus flower growing from a leafy stem, with a further budding flower and a large lotus leaf supporting a young standing acolyte leaning forward deferentially, his hands together in an attitude of prayer, a further lotus bloom at the deity’s right shoulder supporting a bound volume of books, all supported on scrolling clouds, beneath a clambering monkey detailed with fine fur and a bird in flight, set within a craggy and perforated grotto carved from the grey section of the stone, the back of the rock carved in cameo relief with a pine tree and bamboo grove, vertically inscribed on the bottom left in seal script with four characters in relief, probably reading shi er ping xin (‘Here we have a peaceful mind’), followed by the signature Shangjun, the base later inscribed in running script recording that the carving originally presented by his student Mr. Pan as a birthday gift, entered into the collection of Liu Yong in the yimao year (corresponding to 1795), praising its exquisiteness and the lustrous texture, followed by the signature Shi’an ji (‘Recorded by Shi’an’), zitan wood stand
8.9 cm., 3 1/2  in.
weight 269 g.
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Provenance

Collection of Liu Yong (1719-1804), 1795 (inscription).
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, June 1986.

Exhibited

Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1986, cat. no. 165.

Literature

Paul Moss, The Literati Mode. Chinese Scholar Paintings, Calligraphy and Desk Objects, Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, 1986, pl. 84.

Catalogue Note

This finely fashioned tianhuang grotto is signed by one of the great carvers of the 17th century, Zhou Bin, zi Shangjun, a native of Zhangzhou in Fujian province. Fang Zonggui in Shoushanshi zhi [Records of Shoushan Stone], Fuzhou, 1982, pp. 77-78, notes that Zhou’s works were always prized in artistic circles and that he used the Chinese painting concept of xieyi ('idea painting') in carving landscapes, flowers, pines, and bamboo. Amongst his carvings are seals and a series of small figural sculptures of luohan, usually seated on elaborate cushions or rockwork bases, of which several have survived. For example see Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, op.cit., cat. no. 44; and a figure holding a lion cub and seated on a stepped platform incised with lotus sprays, sold in these rooms, 4th April 2012, lot 136. Other carvings by Zhou include a luohan fashioned in stone, in the National Museum of History, Beijing, published in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua daquan: Jin yin yu shi juan [Complete series on the finest cultural relics of China: gold, silver, jade and stone volume], Hong Kong, 1994, p. 83, pl. 242; a tianhuang figure of Maitreya, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, published in Zhongguo meishu quanji [The complete collection of Chinese art], vol. 6, Beijing, 1988, pl. 158; and a bifurong figure of Maitreya, sold in Bonhams Hong Kong, 25th May 2011, lot 208.

According to the inscription to the base, the present grotto carving was a gift in 1795 by a Mr. Pan to the famous Liu Yong (1719-1804), an official who served in a number of high-level positions with a reputation for being incorruptible, rising to become Minister of Rites and Minister of War during the early Qing dynasty. Liu was also one of the most influential and skilled calligraphers of his time. See a rhinoceros horn seated figure of a luohan with a similar inscription on its base included in Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, op.cit., cat. no. 159.

Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection, Scholarly Art III

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Hong Kong