An inside-painted crystal 'Lanting Preface' snuff bottle
Ding Erzhong, Xuannan, Beijing, 18981900 Sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart 6.6cm high.
Treasury 4, no. 562
An inside-painted 'Lanting Preface' snuff bottle
Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; painted on one main side with an illustration of the Orchid Pavilion gathering, inscribed with the title, in clerical script, 'A Painting of the Purification Festival', followed in draft script by 'Painted by Erzhong after a Song version', with one seal of the artist, Ding, in negative regular script, the other main side inscribed in draft script with the entire text of Wang Xizhi's preface, preceded by 'The 'Lanting Preface' by Wang Xizhi of the Jin', and followed by 'Copied by Erzhong at the capital in winter, in the tenth month of the year jiashen', with one seal of the artist, Erzhong, in negative seal script Ding Erzhong, Xuannan, Beijing, 18981900 (incorrectly dated) Height: 6.6 cm Mouth/lip: 0.5/1.92 and 1.73 cm (oval) Stopper: coral; stained walrus ivory
Condition: Bottle: minor natural flaws in the crystal running though the neck though to the shoulder of the bottle. Painting: studio condition
Illustration: Watercolour by Peter Suart
Provenance: Unrecorded source (China 1930) Ko family (1987)
Published: Kleiner 1987, no. 251 JICSBS, Spring 1988, front cover Arts of Asia, SeptemberOctober 1990, p. 98 Kleiner, Yang, and Shangraw 1994, no. 305 Kleiner 1995, no. 396 Kleiner 1995 (illustrated folder), Israel Museum, Jerusalem, July 1997 Treasury 4, no. 562
Exhibited: Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987 Creditanstalt, Vienna, MayJune 1993 Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum, Singapore, November 1994February 1995 British Museum, London, JuneNovember 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, JulyNovember 1997 Christie's, London, 1999
For Lin Yutang's translation of the 'Lanting Preface' and further information, see Sale 1, lot 28.
This is one of two masterpieces painted by Ding Erzhong of this inspiring subject. The other example is in the Ann Kreuger Collection and is dated the winter of 1898 (see Stevens 1976, no. 882, for the side with the picture).
A year with the cyclical designation jiashen year would correspond to either 1884 or 1944. Neither is possible. We are sure he could not have painted this bottle in 1884, at the age of 19. By 1944 he was dead, but even if this might call into question the date of his death, we have the records of the Ko Collection to prove that it was bought many years prior to that, probably in Jinan or Beijing between 1927 and 1929. If jiashen is an error for bingshen, the date becomes 1896, still a bit early stylistically speaking, but possible. But we cannot explain why such an error would be made, so we have simply dated the bottle to 1898 1900, Ding's last three years in Beijing, where it seems to fit best in our chronology of the development of his style.
In signing his works, Ding used Ding Erzhong (fig. 1 three versions); Erzhong (fig. 2 three versions); Ding Shangyu (fig. 3); Shang (just the middle character of fig. 3), Erzhong, yu (fig. 4), and Erzhong di Ding Shangyu (fig. 5). His seals were excellent, legible and reasonably numerous, as befits a master seal carver. They include Ding in various forms (fig. 6 four versions); Erzhong (fig. 7 three versions); Erzhong yin ('seal of Erzhong' fig. 8); yin ('seal' fig. 9), although he rarely used this on its own as did many other artists, and Taigu ('Extreme antiquity' fig. 10). For his two studio names see nos. 547 and 551.