A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG 18th century (2)

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Lot 58
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG
18th century

Sold for HK$ 477,500 (US$ 61,441) inc. premium
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG
18th century
Of cylindrical form, the thick sides with a fitted zitan wood rim and the base mounted with zitan wood rising from three short feet, the exterior superbly carved in high relief with a continuous lush garden scene depicting ten old ladies sitting, chatting, entertaining with three young attendants, preparing tea, holding book and opening a door to the garden wall, a pavilion amidst trees and rocks on one side realistically carved with pillars, formal tiles, as well as the furniture ladies sitting by and a flower arrangement behind one lady, a path flanked by banana trees, rocks and table with rock bonsai leading to another architecture complex, one lady with a pipa listening to another sitting behind a short table with exquisitely carved dishes, outside a cloister carved with a lady with a ruyi sceptre standing behind a pillar, and before a pavilion carved with openwork windows and two ladies chatting in the room, the bamboo patinated to a russet-brown tone, box.
16cm (6 1/4in) high x 12.3cm (5in) diam. (2).

Footnotes

  • 十八世紀 竹雕十美圖筆筒

    The current brushpot is outstanding for the quality of the high relief carving and the meticulous rendering of the details. It is very rare to find a bamboo brushpot so finely carved with this subject matter known as shi mei tu or 'Ten Beauties'.

    Although brushpots depicting female figures were very popular during late Ming and early Qing dynasties, the subject matter was usually following woodblock prints or classic literature, for example of a late Ming dynasty brushpot carved with two ladies reading in a garden, identified as Daqiao and Xiaoqiao, two renowned ladies in the Eastern Han dynasty, in the Shanghai Museum, see Literati Spirit. Art of Chinese Bamboo Carving, Shanghai, 2012, pp.40-41, pl.9. Although the present lot is of a later period, both brushpots show a very similar arrangement of the figures while the present lot is carved deeply with high-relief decorations, which is a technique made popular during the 18th century. Compare also a related bamboo brushpot carved with ladies in a garden, Ming dynasty, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated by Y.L.Hou, A Garland of Treasures: Masterpieces of Precious Crafts in the Museum Collection, Taipei, 2014, p.159, pl.IV-47; and a further bamboo brushpot carved with ladies playing instruments, Qing dynasty, in the Huangshan Museum, Anhui, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Chinese Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carving , Beijing, 2009, vol.1, no.57.

    It appears the dresses wore by the figures depicted on the present burshpot are for elderly ladies, and such appearance may refer to a painting by Zhou Wenju (c. 917-975 AD), an artist active in the late Five Dynasties, depicting ten court ladies playing in an Imperial garden. The painting did not survive, a colophon on it by a Yuan dynasty master painter Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) however, revealed there was a sense of alienation amidst these abandoned or widowed court ladies in this work, see related discussion by Q.M.Wu and C.X.Shi, Lidai tihua jueju pingjian (Notes and Reviews to Quatrains on Ancient Paintings), Hefei, 2018, vol.2, pp.319-320.

    取竹一節,以深浮雕刀法刻山石樹木,其間掩映深院樓閣,抱廈為浮雲所淹,沒入筆筒口沿,其下雕廊廡,迴廊內雕一仕女懷抱如意,閣樓內雕兩仕女抱書相談,廊外雕一對仕女坐於方桌前,一人懷抱琵琶與另一仕女交談,一旁雕童子煮茶,山石一側又雕一亭,亭下有一仕女手杵長杖,手提竹籃,回望亭中一抱柱仕女,仕女身旁雕一垂髫童子,亭內雕三仕女圍坐案前談書論道,此筆筒雕琢極精寫實,樓閣片瓦、勾欄玉砌、盆石瓶花、松針鱗片、乃至琵琶之絃,人物眉目之間,皆歷歷可數,毫無遺漏。用刀深峻,層層疊疊多達九層,方得此立體縱深之觀感。 口沿及底部包紫檀。

    筆筒雕高士者多,而雕女性者少。本件竹雕筆筒雕十位仕女,容貌身形皆有老態,為《十美圖》之畫意。《十美圖》這一題材最有名者當屬五代南唐畫家周文矩所繪,畫今雖不見,詩有存焉。黃公望曾詠道:「侍宴朱樓向暮歸,御香猶在縷金衣。相攜女伴階前立,笑指鴛鴦水面飛。」詩句一字不著十位美人的容貌形態,雖然身著金縷衣,笑指鴛鴦飛,卻將其曾經滄海,朱顏已老,無人垂青的淡然幽怨躍然紙上, 相關討論見吳企明,史創新評註,《歷代題畫絕句評鑑》,合肥,2018,卷2,頁319&320。一如本件竹雕所刻十位宮娥,身居廣廈,旁有侍者,宴飲笙歌不絕,卻無一不是作遠望企盼之貌,失落哀怨之情出乎刀下。

    類似的竹雕十美圖筆筒尚無他例,然仕女庭院圖書雅集的形象自明代以來便在竹雕作品上出現,參考上海博物館藏一件明晚期沈大生作竹雕庭院讀書圖筆筒,畫面以深浮雕刻畫庭院一座,內有兩位高髻仕女展卷讀書,周圍山石桌凳乃至桌上博古雅設同本件十美圖筆筒實一脈相承,然本件筆筒之雕琢更加立體寫實,為乾嘉時代風尚,且為其中精絕者,見上海博物館編,《竹鏤文心—竹刻珍品特輯》,上海,2012年,編號9,頁40及41;另可比較台北故宮博物館藏一件明代竹雕仕女庭院圖筆筒,見侯怡利等編,《集瓊藻 : 院藏珍玩精華展 : 導覽手冊》,台北,2014年,圖版IV-47,頁159; 黃山市博物館藏一件清代竹雕教坊伎樂圖筆筒,其刀法佈局則與本件相近,見《中國竹木牙角器全集》,北京,2009年,卷1,編號57。
Contacts
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG 18th century (2)
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG 18th century (2)
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG 18th century (2)
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG 18th century (2)
A RARE BAMBOO 'TEN LADIES' BRUSHPOT, BITONG 18th century (2)
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