• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    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 2322


    Price Realised  


    KANGXI PERIOD (1662-1722)

    Exquisitely carved as the slumbering figure of Li Bai resting his left hand on a large oval jar of wine finely incised with lotus scroll beneath a ruyi border, his head supported by his right hand, the round face carved with mouth slightly agape framed by a long flowing moustache and beard, his long hair emerging in twists from beneath his scholars cap, the poet wearing a loose fitting robe tied at the waist with an elaborately carved belt, the back of the robe superbly detailed with a rhomboid rank badge depicting a crane perched on branch on a cloud scroll ground, the bamboo of a rich golden patina
    16 5/8 in. (42.2 cm.) across, lacquered wood stand

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    No other comparable bamboo carving appears to have been published. The figure is particularly rare for its large size, exquisite detail, unusual form and subject matter. Extant bamboo carvings of this size are generally crudely carved with little attention to detail but the carver of the present example uses highly sophisticated and fluid carving to depict the folds of the robes, the poet's dreamy expression and the fine details of the jar and rank badge. The crane among scrolling clouds depicted on the rank batch denotes a minister of the first rank in the Qing dynasty ranking system.

    Li Bai (701-762) was the foremost poet of the Tang dynasty and, together with Du Fu, remains one of the most famous poets in Chinese history. His ambition to serve the Emperor Huizong as a statesman was thwarted when the Emperor employed him as a palace poet composing mundane lyrics for the Court. His frustrated political ambition is represented here by the rank badge on his back signifying minister of the first rank, and an amusing artistic interpretation of the Tang dynasty poet by early Qing craftsman. Upon leaving the Court, he spent the rest of his life wandering the country and indulging in his love for wine.


    Peter Kemp, 1970's