Yiru jushi, attributable to Beijing, dated 1807 (the bottle: 17501807) 5.39cm high.
Treasury 4, no. 441
淺浮雕水晶內畫高士題壁圖鼻煙壺 壺﹕1750～1807 內畫﹕一如居士，傳繪於北京，1807年作
A carved crystal inside-painted snuff bottle
Pale brown crystal and ink; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding flat footrim; carved on one main side with a flowering peony and on the other with a flowering chrysanthemum, each contained within a protruding quatrefoil frame; painted on one narrow side with a scholar reaching up with a brush to inscribe an invisible rock face, his attendant beside him holding his inkstone, beneath the inscription 'After [the style of] Shitian' and the signature Banshan, and on the other narrow side with an orchid growing from a rocky bank beneath the inscription 'Following the brush-style of [Academician] Awaiting Orders Wen,' the shoulders inscribed 'Long life equal to the sacred mountains; blessings as eternal as the sea and the sky,' the panel with chrysanthemums inscribed 'The integrity of Pengze [is strong enough to] resist the cold weather,' and that with the peony, 'A single peony is worth a thousand pieces of gold,' followed by 'Written on a spring day in the year dingmao,' and the Manchu signature, Yun Jeng; the Chinese inscriptions all in regular script Bottle: 17501807 Painting: Yiru jushi, attributable to Beijing, 1807 Height: 5.39 cm Mouth/lip: 0.51/1.60 cm Stopper: glass; vinyl collar
Condition: Bottle: three areas of nibbling to the outer footrim; some icy flaws and cracks and one insignificant chip to the quatrefoil frame; otherwise, workshop condition. Painting: studio condition, but with a backing of snuff staining
Provenance: Trojan Collection Robert Hall (1993)
Published: Hall 1992, no. 81 Treasury 4, no. 441
Exhibited: Christie's, London, 1999
TaoYuanming (also known as Tao Qian), in a brief official career, was called upon to serve as the district magistrate of Pengze in what is now Jiangxi province, a post he held for only eighty-three days before his sense of honour forced him to resign; he refused to bow to men he considered his moral inferiors for the sake of a meagre stipend, forever making him a symbol of integrity and earning him the occasional sobriquet, Tao Pengze. He is also known for his passion for the chrysanthemum, a flower that can withstand the adverse conditions in late autumn.
The famous Ming literati painter Wen Zhengming (14701559) was appointed as academician awaiting orders in the Hanlin Academy in 1523; since the Song dynasty, the post was a substantive one, despite the name. Shitian also appeared on Sale 2, lot 124, as another model for Yiru jushi; he is an earlier Ming artist, Shen Zhou.
As mentioned in the commentary for Sale 2, lot 124, Yiru jushi is probably to be identified with Hongwu (d. 1811), a grandson of the Kangxi emperor.
The orchids here are as accomplished as any painted by Yiru jushi. When painting orchids, modulation of the brush is paramount. By varying the pressure on the brush the line modulates from a thin line made by the point of the brush alone to a broader stroke made by the body of the brush under pressure, and with this sort of brushwork one can depict in a single stroke the long, elegant, resilient leaf of the plant as it twists in the breeze. As far as we know, all inside-painted artists until the modern Shandong school started up after the mid-nineteen-fifties used bamboo pens rather than brushes. With impressive virtuosity, Yiru jushi has managed to match with his pen the modulations of a brush in the hands of a skilled artist, resulting in one of the most impressive paintings of orchids in the entire medium.