Scholar's Objects and Works of Art Property from the Collection of Emmanuel Gran, by Descent
An archaistic ivory seal
18th/19th century Of cubed section, the carinated sides surrounding the top half intricately incised in geometric patterns and kuilong dragons all surmonted by a tiny carefully-rendered loop handle incised in similar motifs, the underside bearing a quotation alluding to the Lisao section of the Chuci or 'Songs of Chu,' reading zhao mulan zhi duo lu, can qiu ju zhi luo ying. 1in (2.5cm) high
The Li Sao or 'Departing from Sorrows' of the Chuci or 'Songs from Chu' was a long wistful poem ostensibly by the hand of Qu Yuan, a paragon of Confucian virtue from the Warring States Period. Roughly translated, the excerpt on the seal reads 'in the morning [drinking] the fallen dew from the lily magnolia, [in the evening] eating the fallen petals of the autumn chrysanthemum.'
Such a romantic couplet might initially seem contradictory to the piece's rather severe archaistic style of carving. It is however, consistent with the 'Philology' (Kaozheng) or 'Han Learning' movement especially prominent among intellectuals from the mid-Qianlong reign until the Taiping Rebellion. The overall project of Han Learning scholars was to regain the moral authority of classical antiquity through a rigorous and objective reanalysis of ancient texts. The text of the Chuci, undergoing extensive annotation and re-editing throughout its history, combined with the moral authority embodied in the bronze shape would seem to be an inviting choice for such a philological scholar. See Elman, Benjamin From Philosophy to Philology: Intellectual and Social Aspects of Change in Late Imperial China UCLA press, 2001, for an in depth study of these intellectual trends.
This lot has been in the United States since 1941.
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