An inscribed Imperial spinach jade brushpot Qianlong, Imperially incised inscription and seal mark dated to summer of 1795
Lot 208
An inscribed spinach jade 'Xianglu Feng' brushpot Qianlong, incised inscription dated to summer of 1795
Sold for HK$ 8,060,000 (US$ 1,039,418) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inscribed spinach jade 'Xianglu Feng' brushpot
Qianlong, incised inscription dated to summer of 1795
The massively constructed vessel of broad cylindrical form, supported on five shallow bracket foot, superbly worked on the exterior in varying levels of relief with a continuous mountainscape scene featuring two deer and a pavilion overlooking a lake, the doe portrayed in a recumbent position with its head turned looking backwards, the stag depicted roaming freely at the side with its head turned right, the rocky pass progressing through lush maple trees and textured rock formations framed by banisters, leading towards a raised structure at the cliff edge with a two-tiered pavilion at the epicentre and overlooking a magnificent waterfall, the mouthrim worked in the form of wispy clouds with a series of incised kaishu inscriptions and a seal mark, an additional four-character incised kaishu inscription incised above the roofed shelter, the stone of a rich and attractive dark green colour, wood stand.
17cm diam. (2).

Footnotes

  • Provenance 來源:
    Janek Kahn collection
    Sotheby's London, 24 November 1964, lot 162, illustrated on the frontispiece
    David A. H. Wilkie Cooper collection
    Sotheby's London, 14 March 1972, lot 40
    Ashkenazie & Co., San Francisco, 3 April 1989

    Illustrated 出版:
    Sotheby's Art at Auction, 1971-1972, p.249

    The David Wilkie collection was housed in Merdon Manor, a magnificent 16th century English country mansion in Hersley, Hampshire. It was purchased by Captain George Cooper, later Sir George Cooper (?-1940) and his wife Lady Mary Cooper in 1904. During the Second World War, Lord Beaverbrook requisitoned the house for the design staff of Vickers Supermarine, creators of the heroic Spitfire fighter, who had been bombed out of their Southampton base.

    The four-character inscription in the landscape reads 雲瀑飛櫺 (Yunpu Feiling), and translates as 'cloudy waterfall and flying eaves'.

    The inscription around the rim reads and literally translates as:

    俗工棄業知博古 Sugong qiye zhibogu
    筆室琢成飛瀑圖 Bishi zhuocheng feibutu
    櫺望設如吟七字 Lingwang sheru yinqizi
    定為太白詠香爐 Dingwei Taibai yongxianglu
    乾隆乙卯夏御題 Qianlong yimaoxia yuti
    比德 Bide

    'The common artisan abandons his profession to devote himself to antiquarian pursuits;
    On this brushpot he has carved out a scene of a raging waterfall;
    Gazing forth from under the eaves and reciting seven-character poems;
    Must be Li Bai's poem eulogising the Incense Burner Peak.
    Imperial inscription by the Qianlong Emperor in the summer of yimao year (1795).
    Bide'.

    The inscription concludes with the bide seal. These two characters are extracted from the Liji ('The Book of Rites, by Confucius), from the proverbial statement: Junzi bide yuyu, which literally translates as 'The gentleman (lit.'the lord's son) is more virtuous than jade'. This seal is reserved for Qianlong Imperial jades of the highest quality. It is also incised on the brushwasher in this catalogue (lot 206), and on a white jade circular taishang huangdi seal, sold at Sotheby's Hong Kong, 8 April 2010 lot 1815.

    Xianglu Feng or 'Incense Burner Peak' mentioned in the inscription is the highest peak on the northern part of Mount Lu in Jiangxi province, where its name derives from ritual archaic bronzes. The peak has two large standing stones resembling incense burners at the summit and the mist hanging over it looks like rising smoke. Mount Lu is known for its grandeur and unrivalled beauty. At the heart of the peak waterfall there is a spectacular waterfall, as depicted with raging water flow in the current lot, where the Tang dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772-846) claimed that the scenery of the waterfall surpassed even Mount Lu itself:

    'Having Climbed to the Peak of Incense Burner Mountain
    Up and up, the Incense Burner Peak!
    In my heart is stored what my eyes and ears perceived.
    All the year, I'm detained by official business;
    Today at last I got a chance to go.
    Grasping the creepers, I clung to dangerous rocks;
    My hands and feet are weary wit groping for holds.
    There came with me three of four friends;
    But two friends dared not go futher.
    At last we reached the topmost crest of the Peak;
    My eyes were blinded and my soul rocked and reeled.
    The chasm beneath me, ten thousand feet deep;
    The ground I stood on, only a foot wide.
    If you have not exhausted the scope of seeing and hearing,
    How can you realise the vastness of the world?
    The waters of the river looked as narrow as a ribbon;
    P'en Castle smaller than a man's fist.
    How it clings, the dust of the world's halter!
    It chokes my limbs: I cannot shake it away.
    Thinking of retirement, I heaved an envious sigh,
    Then with lowered head, came back to the Ant's Nest'.

    The Tang dynasty poet Li Bai (701-762) also extolled the beauty of the waterfall, and composed the two-stanza poem titled 'Gazing at the Waterfall at Mount Lu'. The poem literally translates as:

    'Viewing the Waterfall at Mount Lu;
    Sunlight streaming on incense stone kindles violet smoke;
    Far off I watched the waterfall plunge to the long river;
    Flying waters descending straight three thousand feet;
    I think the universe has tumbled from the Ninth Height of Heaven'.

    By the year 1795, the Qianlong Emperor was in the very last year of his long and glorious reign. In the final years of his rule, the Qianlong Emperor increasingly entrusted administrative authority to high officials, devoting more attention to art collecting and scholarly pursuits. In writing this poem, the Qianlong Emperor subconsciously revealed his aspirations for an easy and simple retired life of poetry and art, escaping from the cares and burdens of life at court.

    An Imperial spinach jade brushpot with the same title, inscription around the moutrim and dating as the current lot from the Qing court collection, preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, is illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Jadeware II, Shanghai 2008, p.237, no.198. (fig.1). The only difference between the inscriptions on the Palace Museum brushpot and the current lot is that the former seal reads huixin buyuan ('the awakening of the heart is not far'), rather than bide.

    There are two other Imperial spinach jade brushpots with inscriptions dated to the Qianlong period in the National Palace Museum, Taipei. One of them is worked at the exterior with a scene of 'Collection of Books within Stone Grottos', and dated to the summer of 1794 (jiayin cyclical date). The other spinach jade brushpot illustrates the story of the famous poet Li Bai and his five friends, and is dated to the summer of 1795 (yimao cyclical date), in common with the current lot (fig.2). See The Refined taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, pp.172-175, nos.55 (fig.2) and 56.

    Compare also a spinach jade brushpot with a continuous scene of Immortals in mountains, also incised with Qianlong inscription and dated to summer 1795 (yimao cyclical date, corresponding to the sixtieth year of the Qianlong period), in the Michael S.L. Liu collection, illustrated in The Grandeur of Chinese Art Treasures: Min Chiu Society Golden Jubilee Exhibition, Hong Kong, 2010, p.363, no.217.

    For another spinach jade brushpot from the Palace Museum, Beijing, see A Lofty Retreat from the Red Dust: The Secret Garden of Emperor Qianlong, Hong Kong, 2012, pp.130-131, no.21. Compare also a brushpot from the Heber R. Bishop (1840-1902) collection (fig.3), housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession number 02.18.685a; and another in the British Museum collection (fig.4), see Jessica Rawsonm Chinese Jades from the Neolithic to the Qing, Chicago, 1995, pp.408-409, no.29:18.

    For a closely related example sold at auction, see a spinach jade brushpot dated to summer 1795 and inscribed with the same inscriptions on the surface and rim, differing in the seal huixin buyuan and subject matter (immortals and their attendants amidst a lakeside landscape). Originally purchased from Edward Farmer by Honcan Bough in New York in 1931, it was preserved by the descendants of George H. Taber collection until it was recently sold at Sotheby's New York, 20 March 2012, lot 208.

    清乾隆 碧玉御題詩雲瀑飛櫺圖筆筒

    碧玉質。圓筒形,下承五短足。外壁浮雕雲瀑飛櫺圖, 峻山奇嶺,蒼松翠柏,山間瀑布成河流,波濤翻滾,一面雕一亭台樓宇屹立山間,上空祥雲繚繞,旁邊崖石上陰刻隸書「雲瀑飛櫺」四字。器口沿陰刻一周隸書御題詩:「俗工棄業知博古,筆室琢成飛瀑圖;櫺望設如吟七字 ,定為太白詠香爐。」署款「乾隆乙卯夏御題 」,後鈐一小單框篆書「比德」印。「比德」一印出自孔子《禮記》中:「君子比德於玉」一句,意思指君子應把德性和玉的天然性質相比,達到仁、智、義、禮。

    此筆筒來自大衛德•古柏(David A.H. Wilkie Cooper, Esq.)舊藏。大衛德是其叔父喬治•古柏爵士(Sir George Cooper, 生年未知,卒於 1940)的遺產繼承人。喬治於1904年將一座英國16世紀莊園買下,二戰期間喬治將莊園借給英國著名飛機公司「超級馬林」的設計師,並在此成功設計二戰期間最出名的「噴火戰鬥機」。大衛繼承莊園後,裡面其他剩餘遺產則在1982年拍賣。

    御題詩為乾隆六十年(1795)所作,此詩載於《御製詩集》,第五集,卷九十七,〈題和闐玉雲瀑飛櫺筆筒〉。詩中「香爐」即指代廬山香爐峰。自東晉以來,廬山便一直是歷代文人逸士光吟詩觀景的聖地之一。從司馬遷、陶淵明、王羲之、慧遠,至唐宋時期白居易、李白、蘇軾、朱熹等,均為廬山盛景所讚歎。《望廬山瀑布水》便是李白初遊廬山時為香爐峰廬山瀑布之景而作的兩首詩,其以誇張比喻手法,將香爐峰勾畫的雄偉奇麗,氣象萬千。

    乾隆皇帝晚年十分喜愛描述山林美景及隱士生活題材的故事,此類主題常常被用於裝飾文房用品,而其中又以玉質筆筒為多。此類筆筒由於紋飾佈局巧妙繁複,清宮造辦處玉匠便將御題詩刻於器口沿之上,北京故宮博物院清宮舊藏中有一件十分類似的清乾隆碧玉御題詩筆筒,其口沿亦刻有同樣的御題詩文,見張廣文編,《故宮博物院藏文物珍品大系:玉器(下)》,上海,2008年,頁237,圖版198 (fig.1)。

    台北故宮博物院中藏兩件清乾隆碧玉御題詩筆筒,亦是將乾隆御題詩陰刻於口沿之上,見國立故宮博物院編,《宮廷之雅:清代仿古及畫意玉器特展圖錄》,台北,1997年,頁172-175,圖版55-56,其中石室藏書圖筆筒上刻御題詩為乾隆五十九年(1794)所作,另一間竹溪六逸圖筆筒上刻御題詩則亦為乾隆六十年(1795)年所作(fig.2)。

    參見香港敏求精舍劉瑞隆藏一件清乾隆碧玉樊洞仙侶御題詩筆筒,其刻於口沿御題詩亦與乾隆六十年所作,參見香港藝術館編,《博古存珍:敏求精舍金禧年紀念展》,香港,2010年,頁363,編號217,另見香港大學美術博物館,《閣有天珍:中國文房玉雕》,香港,2008年,頁39-40,圖版39。

    更多例子,參見故宮博物院藏一件清乾隆碧玉透雕竹溪六逸筆圖,雖未刻御題詩,但其雕工與本器相類,見香港藝術館編,《頤養謝塵喧 – 乾隆皇帝的秘密花園》,香港,2012年,頁130-131,圖版21。另見美國大都會博物館藏Heber R. Bishop 舊藏一件乾隆碧玉御題詩筆筒(fig.3),以及大英博物館藏一件碧玉耕織圖筆筒(fig.4),Jessica Rawson,《Chinese Jades from the Neolithic to the Qing》,芝加哥,1995年,頁408-409,圖版29:18。

    參看Honcan Bough於1931年從Edward Farmer所得一件清乾隆碧玉御題詩筆筒,後為George H. Taber舊藏,其口沿所刻御題詩於該筆筒一致,但尾鈐「會心不遠」篆文印,筒外壁則雕刻不同紋飾,此件筆筒隨後被紐約蘇富比於2012年3月20日拍賣,編號208。
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