Wang Xisan 100 children
Lot 57
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle Wang Xisan, dated 1968 (the bottle 1770-1880)
Sold for HK$ 288,000 (US$ 37,154) inc. premium

Lot Details
Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children Wang Xisan 100 children
An inside-painted rock-crystal snuff bottle
Wang Xisan, dated 1968 (the bottle 1770-1880)
6.85cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 4, no. 665


    水晶內畫百子鼻煙壺
    壺:1770~1880
    內畫:王習三, 1968年

    Pinnacle of Perfection

    Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed, very slightly convex foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted with a continuous composition of one hundred boys playing in a garden with a willow tree and a convoluted rock formation, inscribed in clerical script with the title 'One Hundred Boys', followed in draft script by '[The subject of] one hundred boys depicted in inside-painted [bottles] is as rarely seen as the feather of a fenghuang or the horn of a qilin. I have laboured for twenty-one days to complete this. [For me], this ought to be the best work in my career', with one seal of the artist, Xisan, in negative seal script

    Bottle: 1770–1880
    Painting: Wang Xisan, Yang village, Hebei province, 1968
    Height: 6.85 cm
    Mouth/lip: 0.9/2.85 cm
    Stopper: tourmaline; jadeite collar
    Condition: Bottle: very mild small bruise and associated miniscule surface chip in the outer lip; miniscule nibbling to inner lip; small crack-like flaw in base (0.95 cm and irregular, suggesting a flaw in the material not a subsequent crack, although it may be). Painting: studio condition


    Provenance:
    Hong Kong dealer (circa 1969)
    Ann Cohen (circa 1977)
    Hugh Moss (1985)

    Published:
    Arts of Asia, July–August 1972, p. 16
    Jutheau 1980, p. 73
    JICSBS, Summer 1984, p. 21 fig. 1
    JICSBS, Spring 1986, p. 7, no. 8
    Kleiner 1987, no. 309
    Arts of Asia, September–October 1990, p. 98
    Treasury 4, no. 665

    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    Christie's, London, 1995

    Commentary:
    Wang wrote of this bottle (JICSBS, Summer 1984, p. 21):

    My two masters, Ye Xiaofeng and Ye Bengqi, once told me that Ye Zhongsan had painted a bottle, 'One Hundred Boys Playing.' I wanted to paint another one, but this long-cherished wish could not come true because of the fetters of the administration system at that time. When I was sent back to my ancestral home in Hebei Province ... I had the conditions to achieve my wish. Near my studio there was a primary school. My determination to create was aroused by those innocent and artless students. I carefully watched the :children's psychology and activities every day and accumulated many sketches of playing children. After I completed the manuscript, I worked hard for twenty-one days, carrying the painting through without stopping. It was very pleasant to have my long-cherished wish come true.

    On the strength of this one bottle, the subject of children playing became, again, a standard subject. Wang himself painted one hundred children at least two more times, and many other bottles of smaller numbers of children, and many of his students took up the same subject. The few playing children of 1896, when Ye Zhongsan first painted the subject, probably influenced by Zhou Leyuan's subject of naughty children in a schoolroom (see Treasury 4, no. 471), grew under his own hand to the full hundred (or, in the case of the one in the Bloch Collection, ninety-nine — see Treasury 4, no. 648). It was the three or more bottles Ye did of the full complement of children that inspired Wang, however, and led to this masterpiece. There is no indication that Wang actually saw one of Ye's paintings of the subject, however, although presumably he must have seen some of his paintings of fewer children, since they are common enough.

    There are many accounts of the circumstances under which this bottle was painted. 'The Caged Eagle', a 'reportage-literature' story by Li Lingxiu reprinted in a number of collections of that post-Mao literary movement, says that before the side-industry system was officially restored to villages, Wang Xisan got an export company in Tianjin to sell his bottles, but did not reveal his identity. However, a buyer from Hong Kong supposedly spied the name 'One-bottle Studio' on a bottle and recognized it as the work of Wang Xisan of Beijing. This contradicts Hua Fusheng 2008, p. 761, which records that Wang did not use this studio name until 1968, after several side industries had already been started up in Yang Village. And according to the short biography of Wang by Zhu Jianming published in JICSBS, Summer 1984, 16–27, One-Bottle Studio was adopted in 1972; Wang later had Zhu make a correction: In 1969, he was given a fan with 'One Bottle Master' inscribed on it, and it was after that that he sometimes used the signature 'One-Bottle Studio', as well as 'Half-Peasant Studio' (see JICSBS, Summer 1985, 28–29). In 1973, after he moved to Fucheng (Hua Fusheng says that in 1974 the 'whole family' moved, so perhaps he moved first in 1973), he began to formally use 'One-Bottle Studio' to designate his studio. Now, the allusion behind the name—a proverbial saying to the effect that when the boat overturns in midstream, one humble bottle, that is, one gourd-jug tied around the waist for flotation, is worth a thousand in gold—makes it seem that it was a perfect expression for that time when the village was starving and snuff bottles made by Wang and apprentices, if he could train any locals to help him, could have been the 'single gourd' that could save them. But that is not to say the name would not have been meaningful even in the following decade or so. The only scenario that really does not stand up to scrutiny is Li Lingxiu's literary recreation.


    百子觀止

    水晶、墨、水色;平唇、微凸斂底、突出平底圈足;內畫通體百子圖,圖中有柳樹、湖石,隸書題"百子圖 內畫百子鳳毛麟角,絕不多見,今余鏖戟廿一天始成,當為平生最精之作也",後畫長方形白文"習三"一印

    壺:1770~1880
    內畫:王習三,河北衡水阜城縣楊莊村, 1968年
    高:6.85 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.90/2.85
    蓋:碧璽,翡翠座
    狀態敘述:唇沿有微小撞傷和關聯的缺口,口沿有細小的咬痕;底有像裂痕的小瑕(只有0.95厘米而不整齊,或許是水晶原來的瑕庛);內畫:出齋狀態

    來源:
    未知來源,香港(約1969)
    Ann Cohen (約1977)
    莫士撝(1985)
    文獻:
    Arts of Asia, 1972年7月~8月,頁16
    Jutheau 1980, 頁 73
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1984年夏期,頁21,圖1
    《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1986年春期,頁7,編號8
    Kleiner 1987, 編號309
    Arts of Asia, 1990年9月~10月,頁98
    Treasury 4, 編號665
    展覽﹕
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月至6月
    佳士得,倫敦,1995

    說明:
    關於王習三畫這件壺的細節,各有各的敘述。據李玲修作報告文學方式的故事"籠鷹志"(許多作品集所收),農村副業製度還沒正式恢復的時候,王習三以匿名方式托天津的出口公司賣他的內畫煙壺,可是香港來的一位商人看了壺上"一壺齋"就認出來,是北京王習三的作品。可是,據滑福生2008,頁761的記錄,這個畫室名是1968年秋天,楊莊幾項副業開辦了以後才有的。根據朱建明(音譯)的王習三小傳(《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1984年夏期,頁16~27),"一壺齋"是1972年取的室名。以後,王習三讓朱先生修正﹕他是1969年受到一把題"一壺夫子"的扇子的,之後他或用"一壺齋"的款識,或用"半農齋"(《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1985年夏期,頁28~29);1973年1月遷居阜城之後(滑福生說他是1974年"舉家"搬家的,如果他是一個人先去的,沒有矛盾)就正式地用"一壺齋"為室名。按理,在農村窮困而須要鼻煙壺副業能掙的錢的情況之下,引用"中河失船,一壺千金"這個成語的意思來給畫室取名,可說再恰當沒有了,但一直到十幾年以後,"一壺齋"的含意還耐人尋味。諸說中,只有李玲修再現的情節站不住腳。
    就本壺的創作時期來說,滑福生說它是1968 完成的;王習三自己也說,他1968年被追反楊莊時才現實畫百子圖的願望的條件(上舉《國際中國鼻煙壺協會的學術期刊》Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, 1984年夏期,頁21)。兩者吻合。

    Treasury 4編號665的論述提供其他關於王習三這時期的活動的資料和了解,一部分可以引用李玲修的話來代替﹕天津的出口公司"營業員埋怨王習三不該不露廬山真面目。可他們儘儘是看到了煙壺賣低錢的有限損失,而一個有才華的工藝美術家多年空耗箐命的損失,千萬有才華的人才被壓制、摧殘、甚至夭折的損失,又有誰能算得逞清呢?"
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