A TIANHUANG SOAPSTONE FIGURE OF GUANYIN IN A GROTTO
BY ZHOU BIN
LATER INSCRIPTION BY LIU YONG (1719-1804) IN 1795
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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.
Collection of Liu Yong (1719-1804), 1795 (inscription).
Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, June 1986.
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.
Paul Moss, The Literati Mode. Chinese Scholar Paintings, Calligraphy and Desk Objects, Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, 1986, pl. 84.