Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding rounded footrim; painted with a continuous design of Zhong Kui riding a donkey in the sky, preceded by a red bat, and with two demon-attendants, one carrying a pot of blossoming prunus on his shoulder, the other a pole across his shoulders supporting Zhong Kui's other belongings, including a small trunk, his sword, a qin wrapped in a brocade cloth, and a basket, set on a bank of formalized clouds which obscure the grassy ground beneath, while his sister is pushed in a wheeled carriage with a canopy by a further demon and another walks beside her holding a lantern, also set on clouds above a grassy ground with a mountain range beyond, inscribed in draft script 'Executed by Sun Xingwu during the last ten days of the seventh month, in the autumn of the year dingyou for the pure enjoyment of Zhensheng, the honourable elder brother,' with one seal of the artist, yin ('seal'), in positive seal script Sun Xingwu, Beijing, end of the seventh month, 1897 Height: 6.39 cm Mouth/lip: 0.71/1.74 cm Stopper: jadeite; bronze collar (once gilt)
Condition: Bottle: miniscule nibbles to the inner foot rim; surface scratches from wear. Painting: studio condition, backed by some remaining snuff
Provenance: Sotheby's, London, 24 April 1989, lot 384
Exhibited: Hong Kong Museum of Art, MarchJune 1994 National Museum, Singapore, November 1994February 1995 Christie's, London, 1999
The legend of Zhong Kui began, as so many legends did, with a human who was deified after his death (see under Sale 4, lot 79). In one embellishment of the story, after his death he had his sister marry the man who had been his old benefactor, as well as seeing that she was taken care of while he was away. Here she is shown in her wedding procession, being accompanied by her brother and demon-attendants. On a subtler level, the theme 'Zhong Kui marrying off his sister' (Zhong Kui jiamei) can also be interpreted as a visual pun for the term jiamei ('to be rid of evil spirits'). Such a design conveys the desire for smooth sailing in daily life.
For other works by Sun Xingwu, see the commentary on this bottle in Treasury 4.