• 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 810


    MING DYNASTY (1368-1644)

    Price Realised  


    MING DYNASTY (1368-1644)
    The top finely carved with figures at various pursuits beside a lotus pond, which may represent different stages of sericulture, from gathering the mulberry leaves, to sorting silk worms, to folding the cloth, with a band of key fret around the outer edge, the conical reverse with a small central hole surrounded by four ribbon-tied emblems set atop the arms of a large wan character further surrounded by four ruyi heads centering four babao which alternate with four flower sprigs
    3¼ in. (8.3 cm.) diam.

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    Although there are a few other ivory medallions of this unusual type and shape, there is no consensus on their exact function. One carved with a scene identified as Liu Chen and Yuan Zhao visiting Dian Tai Shan, the holy mountain in Zhejiang province, on the face and a dragon on the underside, is illustrated by S.E. Lucas, The Catalogue of Sassoon Chinese Ivories, 1950, vol. 3, pp. 1348-9, no. 953, where it is suggested that ivories of this type have been referred to as shroud weights. Another example of comparable size (3 3/8 in.), similarly carved with a figural scene on one side and similar motifs on the conical reverse, is illustrated in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 'Chinese Decorative Arts', Summer 1997, p. 42, where it is dated late 16th-early 17th century based on the similarity of the scene to genre paintings of Ming date. The emblems on the reverse are also noted as being of late Ming date. Like the present medallion there is a small hole in the center of the reverse, which holds the remains of an iron pin and there is another small hole in the perimeter. It is described as of "unknown function."
    Another smaller (2 7/8 in. ) example carved on one side with a scene of a peddler, with a similar key-fret band around the perimeter and similar flowers on the reverse, 14-15th century, was sold at Sotheby's, New York, 10-11 April 1986, lot 315.

    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.


    J.J. Lally & Co., New York, 18 March 1997.