• For the Enjoyment of Scholars: auction at Christies

    Sale 2391

    For the Enjoyment of Scholars: Selections from the Robert H. Blumenfield Collection

    25 March 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 848

    YU ZHIDING (1647-1716)


    Price Realised  


    YU ZHIDING (1647-1716)
    Happiness through Chan Practice: Portrait of Wang Shizhen
    Handscroll, ink and color on silk
    13 7/8 x 31½ in. (35.3 x 80 cm.)
    Signed: "Respectfully painted, Yu Zhiding of Guangling"
    Five seals of the artist
    Frontispiece by Lin Ji (1660-after 1720), signed and with 3 seals
    Five collectors' seals of Xiang Hanping (1890-1978), a general in the Nationalist Army
    Colophons by Mei Geng (1640-1722, dated gengchen year (1700), with 3 seals); Lin Ji (with 3 seals); Zha Sheng (1650-1707, with 4 seals); Wang Yi (1671-1706, dated gengchen year (1700), with 3 seals); Zha Siting (?-ca. 1726), with 3 seals); Yu Zhaosheng (late 17th-early 18th century, with 3 seals); Feng Tingkui (1649-1700, with 2 seals); Chen Yixi (1648-1709, with 3 seals); Liu Shiling (Qing dynasty, with 3 seals); Zhu Zaizhen (with 3 seals); Jiang Renxi (late 17th-early 18th century, dated 39th year of the Kangxi era (1701), with 3 seals); Huang Yuanzhi (with 4 seals); Wang Danlin (with 1 seal); Sun Zhimi (1642-1708), with 3 seals); and Qian Mingshi (late 17th-early 18th century, with 3 seals)
    Titleslip by Xiang Hanping, dated jiaxu year (1934) and with 1 seal

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    Yu Zhiding was a versatile painter who was most highly respected for his skillful and lifelike portraits. He served for several years as an official painter in the court of Emperor Kangxi. After retiring from official service in 1690, he returned to his home and painted the likenesses of many of the most illustrious men of the period. This portrait depicts Wang Shizhen (1634-1711), who was a member of a well established family, an accomplished scholar, and an effective government official. A child prodigy, Wang is best known for his talents as a prolific poet and writer.

    Yu Zhiding painted at least four other portraits of Wang Shizhen, which was a result of the men's friendship. These portraits feature highly realistic depictions of Wang Shizhen that make use of modeling techniques derived from Western painting traditions. The surrounding landscapes were often painted by other artists--a collaborative practice for which Yu Zhiding was well known. In the title of the painting and in the depiction of Wang wearing monk's robes and shorn hair, Yu Zhiding illustrates Wang's connection with Chan Buddhism. Innovative for painting his subjects in psychologically revealing settings, Yu also included a reference to Wang's reputation as an enthusiastic bibliophile who amassed a huge library by showing him with stacks of books.

    Wang Shizhen's portrait is followed by fifteen colophons written by friends and colleagues of Wang Shizhen and suggest that the painting was made in or just before 1700. Most of the authors had careers in government service and many were talented calligraphers. The majority of these comments not only praise Wang Shizhen's accomplishments and upright character but also describe his embodiment of Chan values and philosophy.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

    Saleroom Notice

    Another version of this painting by the same artist, accompanied by some of the same colophons, was published in the 34th year of Guangxu {AD 1908} in volume 4 of the journal Shenzhou guoguang ji.