• 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 912

    A VERY RARE IMPERIAL SONGHUA STONE INKSTONE, BOX AND COVER

    QIANLONG NIANZHI FOUR-CHARACTER MARK AND OF THE PERIOD (1736-1795)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A VERY RARE IMPERIAL SONGHUA STONE INKSTONE, BOX AND COVER
    QIANLONG NIANZHI FOUR-CHARACTER MARK AND OF THE PERIOD (1736-1795)
    The fine soft grey-green inkstone with a lingzhi-shaped well, and an outline conforming to that of the shallow box and cover which is finely carved on top through the grey-green outer layer to the darker grey under layer with a pair of cranes standing below the branch of one of the two pine trees at the sides, the four-character mark carved in a line on the base of the inkstone
    Songhua stone box and cover: 3¾ in. (9.5 cm.) long; original fitted brocade box with paper label inscribed, Yuzhi Songhe tu xiao songyan, (Imperially made small ink stone with red color picturing pine and crane) on inside of cover


    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

    Beginning in the Kangxi period Songhua stone became one of the preferred stones, along with duan and she, for use in the carving of inkstones. Songhua stone was esteemed for not only its color, but especially for its effectiveness and ease in the grinding of the ink. The stone came from Jilin, a fact incorporated into a poem by the Qianlong Emperor, in which he mentions that "Songhua yu" (Songhua 'jade') came from the convergence of the Songhua and Heilong rivers in Jilin, and that it could be used for inkstones. In the article 'Songhua shi yan' (Songhua inkstone), Wenwu, 1980:1, pp. 86-7, Zhou Nanquan notes that in the 39th year of Qianlong's reign (1774) official records mention a total of 120 pieces of Songhua stone. Further records from the same year note that on three occasions thirty-eight pieces of raw material from Jilin province were sent to the palace. Of these, five pieces were used to carve eight inkstones and their boxes, as it was customary during the Qianlong period for the boxes of Songhua inkstones to be carved from the same stone, often utilizing the different strata of color found in the stone to great effect. During this period the Emperor even commissioned court painters to create the designs for the covers, creating an artistic link between certain types of paintings and the motifs found on the covers of some inkstone boxes.
    A Songhua inkstone with similar well and cover with very similar design were included in the Min Chiu Society Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition, Selected Treasures of Chinese Art, Hong Kong, 1990-91, no. 238. Another of related shape and design, of Yongzheng date, is illustrated in Special Exhibition of Sunghua Inkstone, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1993, no. 47. See, also, the inkstone of rectangular shape with pine and cranes on the cover, dated to the Qianlong period, illustrated ibid., no. 57.

    Provenance

    Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 17 November 1988, lot 249.
    Mary and George Bloch Collection; Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 23 October 2005, lot 149.