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More than a Game / A CARVED BAMBOO 'SEVEN SAGES OF THE BAMBOO GROVE' INCENSE HOLDER 18th century

LOT 20
A CARVED BAMBOO 'SEVEN SAGES OF THE BAMBOO GROVE' INCENSE HOLDER
18th century
29 mai 2022, 14 h 00 UTC+8
Hong Kong, Admiralty

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A CARVED BAMBOO 'SEVEN SAGES OF THE BAMBOO GROVE' INCENSE HOLDER

18th century
Of slender cylindrical form, meticulously carved and pierced with a continuous scene depicting the 'Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove' in a winding landscape, one of them playing the qin surrounded by scholars, facing another scholar playing a pipa, two further scholars engaging in distance with the group, the setting accentuated with large looming boulders and jagged rockwork surrounded by pine and wutong trees, the bamboo with a smooth reddish-brown patina, mounted with a removable base and cap. 26.4cm (10 3/8in) overall high.

Footnotes

十八世紀 竹雕鏤空「竹林七賢」香筒

Games for the Chinese literati, meant not only engaging in a physical activity, but also something immaterial, such as composing poems, playing music etc, similar to what the 'Seven Sages' in the Jin dynasty did in their bamboo grove.

The 'Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove' were a group of learned men from the 3rd century (Eastern Jin dynasty). During a time of political upheaval the group distanced themselves from government service, choosing instead to spend time engaged in metaphysical discussions, poetry, and music, always while inebriated. There were three musicians in the group, the qin players Ji Kang ( 223-263), Ruan Ji (210-263) and Ruan's nephew, Ruan Xian (who played ruan, a pipa-like instrument). Ruan Ji was said to compose qin pieces while Ji Kang was an accomplished performer. Thus, it is easy to identify the figure playing qin as Ji Kang, and the ruan player in front of him as Ruan Xian.

This scene was widely depicted on various works of art thereafter and was particularly popular on bamboo carvings. Compare with a closely related bamboo incense holder with the similar scene, by Shi Tianzhang, in the Palace Museum Collection, illustrated in Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings. The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 2002, pl.56.

此香筒截取竹材所製,構圖以魏晉時期竹林七賢避世隱遁山林、酣暢行樂的文會活動為題,畫面中一位賢士撫琴奏曲,對坐者彈奏琵琶,其他賢士皆用心傾聽,凝思神往,或站或坐,各具姿態。林中蒼松虯枝,岩壑奇姿,翠竹挺立。通體運用深浮雕及鏤雕技法,運刀如筆,瀟灑自如。皮殼呈棗紅色,澤光瑩潤,上下兩端鑲扣頂蓋及底座。

竹林七賢為明清竹雕常見題材,然而人物裝束已經時代化。七賢之中精通音律者有三人,即嵇康、阮籍及阮咸。竹雕畫面,常作嵇康彈琴,而有阮籍席地而坐對彈阮咸之例子並不多見。

參考北京故宮藏一件施天章作竹雕竹林七賢香筒,見《故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集·竹木牙雕》,香港,2002年,圖版56。

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