The Cameo Ink-play Master, possibly Imperial, Official School, 17701860 5.72cm high.
Treasury 2, no. 323
A chalcedony 'dragons' snuff bottle
Dendritic chalcedony; very well hollowed, with a concave lip and recessed flat foot, surrounded by a broad, inward-sloping flat footrim; carved with a continuous design, partially in extremely low-relief cameo work, of a three-clawed dragon emerging from clouds to confront a chi dragon, a flaming pearl between them, above a rocky ground from which a tree, possibly intended to be a wutong, grows, wisps of formalized cloud dissecting its branches The Cameo Ink-play Master, possibly Imperial, Official School, 17701860 Height: 5.72 cm Mouth/lip: 0.72/2.07 cm Stopper: coral; turquoise finial; quartzite collar
Condition: The mouth is uneven, which suggests that it is possibly polished; otherwise, workshop condition
Provenance: Jesse Dukeminier and David Sanders Robert Hall (1995)
Published: Hall 1997, no. 7 JICSBS, Autumn 1997, pp. 10 and 11 Treasury 2, no. 283
Exhibited: Robert Hall Gallery, June 1995
This is another of the transcendent masterpieces by the Cameo Ink-play Master, in a class with Sale 1, lot 6, and the J & J fish (Moss, Graham, and Tsang 1993, no. 133) for its extraordinary combination of material, quality of workmanship and interpretive genius. The artist has taken a piece of dappled chalcedony that is immensely varied in colouring and markings, the sort of challenge he seems to have enjoyed, and with an elegantly hollowed and shaped form, created an ink-play masterpiece of the highest order. The cameo work here is barely discernible as being in relief, but is still conceived as cameo work for all that, with different colours separated out to form different elements of the design (the chi dragon, for instance, some of the clouds, the body of the larger dragon and part of the tree), but as an ink-play it is stunning. It demonstrates just how the game of interpreting markings, editing a little here, adding a few lines in the ground colour there, and using a highly tuned artistic imagination can lead in stone to the same results as it does on paper.