Crystal, ink, and watercolours; with a flat lip and recessed flat foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; painted with a continuous scene of a moonlit bamboo grove with a crane on a rocky outcrop beside a blossoming prunus, with lingzhi growing nearby, inscribed on the side with the crane in draft script with a poem, followed by one seal of the artist in negative seal script, Zhou shi ('Mr. Zhou'), and, on the side with the moon, 'Executed by Zhou Leyuan in the capital', followed by a second seal of the artist, Leyuan, also in negative seal script Bottle: 17501880 Painting: Zhou Leyuan, The Studio of Lotus-root Fragrance, Xuannan, Beijing, circa 1892 Height: 5.91 cm Mouth/lip: 0.50/1.65 and 1.55 cm (oval) Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar
Condition: Minor scratching to the lip in the crystal and a chip to the outer footrim, otherwise, good condition
Provenance: Ralph Baldwin (photographed by Moss in the mid-1960s) Trojan Collection (1993) Robert Hall (1993)
Exhibited: British Museum, London, JuneNovember 1995 Israel Museum, Jerusalem, JulyNovember 1997 Christie's, London, 1999
This is the poem that appeared on Sale 1, lot 47, also by Zhou:
Beyond the luxuriant bamboo grove, one branch slants. The gleaming moonlight is sifted in the sky to paint its pure-white blossoms. Don't say that the one living alone and remote lacked companions, Even in cold weather a crane stayed with the prunus blossoms.
The last two lines of this poem refer to the well-known recluse and poet, Lin Bu (9671028), who found companionship in the prunus grove he tended and the crane he kept; the former he regarded as his wife and the latter, his son (see Tsang 1994, pp. 1011).
Zhou painted bamboo infrequently, but whenever he did his renditions are masterly. Bamboo was a standard subject through which the adept calligrapher could show off his brushwork, since to paint bamboo requires most of the basic strokes involved in the mastery of calligraphy. It is perhaps strange that, painting them as well as he obviously did, he was not tempted to do so more often, with bamboo as the main theme, or at least a powerful part of the composition as they are here and on Sale 1, lot 47. Of the two, this is the more impressive example from this standpoint, since there is much more bamboo involved in the continuous subject, giving it greater prominence in the composition. His masterpiece of the subject of bamboo, where the bamboo is a principal element, is the Bob Stevens example painted in 1888 (Stevens 1976, no. 869); otherwise, this is undoubtedly his finest depiction of the subject, with its supremely elegant and understated young bamboo painted with exquisitely controlled brushwork.
The seal used here which reads, Mr. Zhou (Zhou shi), is, as far as we can see, not used elsewhere on his works, although it is typical of the style of seal used in most of his later works, of small size and painted in neat, negative seal script.