No other comparable example appears to be recorded. The rarity is enhanced by the exceptional quality of the carving and the fact that it bears the signature of a recorded Kangxi literatus who is famed for his wood carvings. Tang has rendered his composition with extraordinary observation and insight, showing his ability to depict not only what may be observed but also what lies behind a phenomena. The two plump magpies are finely depicted with the branches, twigs and flowers exquisitely carved. The juxtaposition of the smoothed and polished bark with the rough insect damage is also special, and indicate the artist’s understanding of nature where insects have no respect for artistic sensibility.
For other boxwood brushpots, see for example one in the form of a pine tree trunk, naturalistically carved with an eagle perched on a single branch, from the collection of Mary and George Bloch, sold twice in these rooms, 23rd October 2005, lot 1, and 8th October 2010, lot 2181. See also a small brushpot carved in the shape of an old prunus stump illustrated in Paul Moss, Documentary Chinese Works of Art in Scholar’s Taste, London, 1983, pl. 72. Further compare a hardwood brushpot carved in high relief with prunus blossom, bamboo and pine growing from amongst pierced rockwork formations, sold in our London rooms, 4th May 1984, lot 273, from the collection of the late Miss M. Beasley.
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