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    Sale 2389

    Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

    27 November 2007, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1842

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE SET OF BAMBOO DAOIST IMMORTALS

    Price Realised  

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE SET OF BAMBOO DAOIST IMMORTALS
    QING DYNASTY, LATE 18TH CENTURY

    The serene figures are all delicately carved from bamboo root, each representing a Daoist immortal with fine hair and facial features, including Lu Dongbin who is depicted with his small gourd, holding a fly whisk and wearing a sword on his back; Li Tieguai, sitting cross-legged with his iron crutch and a gourd containing his spirit; He Xiangu, dressed in flowing robes, carrying a lotus pod on its long stem and a lingzhi fungus; Zhang Guolao, with one hand supporting a bamboo tube over his shoulder and clappers in the other; Zhong Liquan, clutching a plantain leaf fan and cleaning his ear with a pick; Cao Guojiu, beating a large pair of castanets; Han Xiangzi, holding a tasselled flute to his mouth; and Lan Caihe with a hoe and a basket of flowers, each figure is seated on a rockwork base and incised with two seal script characters, Shimin, within a rectangle border
    3 1/8 in. (8 cm.) highest, box (8)


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    It is very rare to find a complete set of eight Daoist immortals, and all with the carver's mark. The artist, Shimin, is identified as Cai Shimin, one of the leading craftsmen in the bamboo carving centre of Jiading (Shanghai), during the late 18th century. Cai's name is recorded in Zhongguo Meishu Jiarenming Cidian, Shanghai meishu renmin chubanshe, 2003, p. 1371; his informal name is listed as 'Xun Chu' and style name as 'Xiao Guan'. He specialised in carving figures, establishing his own independent style rather than emulating that of the established Feng family of figure carvers. Compare with a bamboo luohan bearing the signature of the artist Feng Shiqi, a contemporary of Cai Shimin, see Chinese Bamboo Carving, Ip Yee and Laurence C.S. Tam, Hong Kong, 1978, col. pl. 37.

    When Jin Yuanyu, the gazetteer of Zhuren Lu, 'A Record of Bamboo Carvers', listed the artist Cai Shimin in 1807, it is known then that Cai had already passed away. Jin Yuanyu also recorded that Cai carved a set of eighteen luohan after the painting style of the great master, Li Gonglin (1049-1106). These figures were carved with shaggy eyebrows, deep-set eyes, rounded foreheads and square jaw. Some were fierce-fighting tigers with their bare hands, or lifting up dragons, whilst others were calm; plucking flowers or clutching a broom. Each figure had its own individual characteristics. Cf., Mingqing Zhuke Yishu, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1999, pp. 113-4.

    Cai died at an early age of forty-nine but left a pupil, He Qiji, who successfully grasped his master's style. Records date both men to the late Qianlong and Jiaqing periods, from which it seems more likely that Cai was active in the late eighteenth century, while He Qiji worked on into the early nineteenth. Sources further indicate that Cai became most famous after he adopted the art name of 'Xiao Guan' so that carvings bearing his informal name of 'Xun Chu', should as the present carvings be considered his early works.

    Provenance

    Jack Rose, London


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY OF THE LATE EDWIN E. MEADER, KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN, SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF A CHARITABLE TRUST IN AID OF EDUCATIONAL CHARITIES


    Literature

    Chinese Decorative Arts, Bluett & Sons Ltd., London, 1974, no. 89
    Chinese Bamboo Carving, Ip Yee and Laurence C.S. Tam, vol. 1, Hong Kong, 1978, no. 135, and p. 109, col. pl. 39
    Between Heaven and Earth, Secular and Divine Figural Images in Chinese Paintings and Objects, Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London, 1988, no. 22
    Mingqing Zhuke Yishu, Taiwan, 1999, Ji Ruoxin, pp. 244-246, pl. 44, a, b, c, d