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    Sale 2625

    A Fine Collection of Chinese Bamboo Carvings from the Personal Collection of Mr and Mrs Gerard Hawthorn

    3 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 2316


    Price Realised  



    Of wide cylindrical form, finely carved in both high and low relief and openwork with nine fierce dragons emerging from a dense ground of swirling clouds, their writhing sinuous bodies partially obscured by the billowing clouds, the edges of the clouds and details of the dragons' faces highlighted using the lighter outer 'skin' of the bamboo, inscribed near the base with a two-line inscription reading Mu Chen Suoweng, Jiulong tu followed by the two-character signature, Tian Zhang, the cylinder supported on a horn base and surmounted by a wood cover
    9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm.) high

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    The workmanship and imagery depicted on the present parfumier indicate that it would almost certainly have been a piece reserved for Imperial use.

    The inscription on the side of the cylinder can be translated as 'Imitating the style of Chen Suoweng's Nine Dragons'. It is in reference to the famous Southern Song painter Chen Rong (circa 1189-1258) who was renowned for his ethereal depictions of dragons emerging from wispy clouds. Compare a handscroll painting attributed to Chen Rong depicting a single dragon striding out of misty clouds, in the Palace Museum collection, illustrated in Zhongguo Huihua Quanzhi, Zhejiang renmin meishu chubanshe, vol. 4, 1999, p. 171, no. 132 (fig. 1). Also compare the well-known 'Nine Dragons' handscroll in the Boston Museum of Fine Art, illustrated op. cit., pp. 166-9, nos. 127-130. The dragons on the Boston handscroll are variously portrayed rising out of crested waves, clambering on jagged rocks, half-submerged in clouds and in pursuit of a pearl. All these attributes clearly provided the inspiration for later works of art, particularly in scholars' objects, such as present parfumier.

    (Shi) Tian Zhang (1701-1774) was a native of Jiangsu province who was an accomplished artist in a variety of media including ivory carvings, paintings and lacquer but he particularly excelled in bamboo carvings. Known as an 'eccentric' artist, he was active during the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns and according to Court records, in the 9th year of Yongzheng, he was employed as a senior craftsman in the Imperial workshops in Beijing. For examples of his work, compare an incense holder in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, vol. 44, Bamboo, Wood and Ivory Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, p. 62, no. 56. A finger citron with a Tian Zhang mark in the Victoria and Albert Museum is illustrated by C. S. Tam, Chinese Bamboo Carving, Part 1, Hong Kong, 1978, pp. 184-185, no. 29.


    Jeremy Mason, 1977