Inside Painted by Ding Erhzhong;  glass;  ink and water-colours;
Lot 62
An inside-painted glass snuff bottle Ding Erzhong, dated 1899
Sold for HK$ 360,000 (US$ 46,450) inc. premium
Lot Details
An inside-painted glass snuff bottle
Ding Erzhong, dated 1899
sold with accompanying watercolour by Peter Suart
6.26cm high.

Footnotes

  • Treasury 4, no. 555


    玻璃內畫鼻煙壺
    丁二仲,1899年


    A Courtier's Abstract Dream

    Glass, ink, and watercolours; with a concave lip and recessed convex foot surrounded by a protruding footrim; painted on one main side with a landscape consisting of various rocky outcrops set in an expanse of water, the foreground with an elaborate structure that may be the gateway to a temple set on the shore, with a group of four blossoming trees in the foreground, inscribed in draft script '[Executed by] Erzhong, [alias Shang]yu, for the elegant judgment of Xiaofang, the honourable surveillance commissioner', with one seal of the artist, Erzhong, in negative seal script, the other main side with two cranes on a rocky outcrop beside the trunk of an ancient pine tree with blossoming branches at its base and peonies growing in the foreground, inscribed in draft script 'Painted in the eleventh month of the year jihai by Erzhong', with one seal of the artist, Ding, in negative regular script

    Ding Erzhong, eleventh month, 1899
    Height: 6.26
    Mouth/lip: 0.72/1.80 cm
    Stopper: tourmaline; vinyl collar
    Condition: Bottle: inner lip evenly and slightly ground presumably to remove minor chips; very minor wear and scratching, not visible to the naked eye except on the foot, where one longer scratch is visible. Painting: minor flaking of cinnabar red on cranes' crests; otherwise in studio condition


    Illustration: watercolour by Peter Suart

    Provenance:
    Arts of China, Hong Kong (1985)

    Published:
    Kleiner 1987, no. 260
    1987 exhibition poster
    Treasury 4, no. 555

    Exhibited:
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, October 1987
    Creditanstalt, Vienna, May–June 1993
    Christie's, London, 1999

    Commentary
    Rarely do we find a Ding Erzhong painting in studio condition, although many in the Bloch Collection come close. The only indication that this bottle was ever filled with snuff is to be found in the white peonies. With both Zhou Leyuan and Ding Erzhong, these flowers were often painted with the thinnest washes of white which were then bled with thicker white and a purplish-pink to give the impression of separate petals and variation in the colours. Where the thinnest washes were left, they are the weakest washes used in the medium and rarely survived many years of contact with snuff. It matters very little in the way we view our bottles today, empty of snuff and carefully cleaned out, since the very pale washes of white look no different from the frosted inner surface of the clear glass, but under magnification it is clear that these palest washes have been replaced by transparent glass. The extraordinary condition of this bottle allows us to see Ding at his height. Both sides are painted with masterpieces of their subjects which are breathtakingly fine in all the languages of Chinese painting, outer and inner.

    The landscape is of his more mature, evolved style where abstract formal concerns dominate over pictorial ones, which we discussed under Treasury 4, nos. 542 and 546, and which is even more obvious here. Apart from his mature rock painting, with large and small rocks set off against each other in a formal dance, he has introduced another formal landscape element here in the flat plateaux, of even height, which he attaches to the rock formations on the far bank. Although they depict possible landscape elements, they are used primarily as an abstract foil for the sharply rising, boulder-like forms of the blue coloured rocks, echoed on the other side of these rocks by the horizontal distant mountains washed in grey ink. They allow Ding horizontal elements to balance against the thrusting diagonal forms of the rocks. Another indication of the abstract concerns that dominated Ding's landscape painting in his mid- and late career as a bottle-painter is to be found in the vermilion foliage on the trees, which is echoed as distant trees or shrubs, and even as the foliage on the rocky crags. It is the same colour for all of the foliage, and, indeed, for the solitary building by the lakeshore. Pictorially he might have varied his foliage for all the different trees and shrubs, but by simplifying it all to a single colour for abstract purposes, he signals his main concern. It is the same with the late Chinese landscape painter, Wang Jiqian (C. C. Wang, 1907-2003), who explained that he really had not painted landscapes for years, what he was painting was abstract form. To his audience they look like landscape paintings, but to him the landscape elements were merely a vehicle for the exploration of abstract form. Ding and C. C. Wang would have understood each other perfectly.

    On the other main side is one of Ding's many compelling paintings of various symbolic elements including cranes. He painted these birds with enormous flair and skill and we would be tempted to call this his crane masterpiece, if only the others were not so brilliant!

    Various symbolic messages are hidden in this design, as always. The cranes, rock and pine all represent longevity and the peonies, wealth (see under Treasury 4, no. 466), but the cranes also represent the attainment of a high position at court (see under Treasury 4, no. 498).

    The rocky outcrop on which the cranes are set here, as always with this subject, represents an ideal. Natural rock sculptures of this kind exist in the wild, but whenever found in the post-Tang period, they were usually carried off to grace either the garden estates or the studios of the aesthetic elite. As such they were highly valued, indeed, as studio rock sculptures, they became the most highly valued form of sculptural art in China, losing their ranking only in the face of Western demand which placed its own hierarchy of value on Chinese arts and, during a period of cultural and political confusion in China, came close to swamping the traditional Chinese aesthetic values between the 1860s and 1950s. The rock aesthetic of the ancient tradition is beginning to reassert itself, allowing us to see in these artistic joint works between nature and humankind what the literati once saw in them. Anyone coming across a rock as compelling as the one depicted here would soon shoo away the cranes and cart it off to their home, but in an ideal world such as Ding and other literati painted, every rock could be a masterpiece, every pine a mature, natural sculpture in its own right, and every pair of cranes pose in an abstractly pleasing position, their vermilion crests ideally balancing the seal of the artist who painted them.


    筱舫朱砂夢

    玻璃、墨、水色;凹唇、凸斂底、突出圈足;一面內畫一幅山水,前景一叢落葉樹下可窺見如門樓的建築,或許是在前景樹叢坡石掩蔽的水岸上,上題"筱舫觀察大人雅鑒,二仲庚",並畫"二仲"一白文篆印,另一面內畫松下二隻鶴與牡丹花、奇石等,上題"已亥冬月二仲寫",並畫"丁"一白文篆印

    丁二仲,1899年11月
    高:6.26 厘米
    口經/唇經:0.72/1.80 厘米
    蓋:碧璽,乙烯基座
    狀態敘述:壺:口沿有如疵點輕輕地磿平處,淺而不顯著;微乎其微的磨擦,除底一條擦痕外,肉眼看不見;內畫:鶴頂紅色有所脫落外,出齋狀態

    有彼德小話 (Peter Suart) 水彩畫

    來源:
    Arts of China, Hong Kong (1985)
    文獻:
    Kleiner 1987, 編號260
    1987年展覽海報
    Treasury 4, 編號555
    展覽﹕
    Sydney L. Moss Ltd, 倫敦, 1987年10 月
    Creditanstalt, 維也納, 1993年5月至6月
    佳士得,倫敦,1999年

    說明:
    丁二仲出齋狀態的內畫鼻煙壺寥若晨星,但伯樂珍藏不少的煙壺很近乎出齋狀況。本壺只有查看白色的牡丹才能明白曾經儲存有鼻煙。周樂元和丁二仲畫牡丹,經常先施淡淡的白彩,再抹濃白彩和紫粉紅色以造成花瓣分明、顏色變化的印象。淡水彩留下來的地方最容易受鼻煙的侵入。現在我們不放鼻煙,看不出白彩已脫落,只有放大而查看才能辨出,不是淡水彩,是毛玻璃。本壺原始的狀態讓我們欣賞他巔峰期的成就。兩正面的內畫都是山水和花鳥的佳作。

    前者代表丁二仲比較進展的風格,是抽象因素比寫實因素強。大小坡石錯落有致之外,尚有遠景山崖豎勢和平地橫勢的對稱、遠近同色樹葉的照應等,都呈現畫抽象美的意志。王己千(1907~2003)曾說,他好幾年沒畫山水;觀眾以為是山水畫,但他其實是用山水畫的成分來構成新的抽象形態的。王己千與丁二仲,不謀而合,如有冥契。

    另一面的丹鶴稱得上是丁二仲的丹鶴傑作,不過,他丹鶴佳作實在是太多了,沒辦法只選拔一幅無雙的傑作。那塊奇石也太棒了,如今發現這樣的石頭,必定引發一輪好石爭奪戰。
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