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SU SHI (1037-1101)
SU SHI (1037-1101)
SU SHI (1037-1101)
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SU SHI (1037-1101)
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Bidding of the “Wood and Rock” by Su Shi, Lot 8008… Read more One of the Rarest Discoveries in Chinese Art HistorySu Shi’s Wood and Rock is among the most significant classical Chinese paintings in existence. It comes from the hand of one of the world’s greatest cultural luminaries, it embodies a revolution in the creative potential of the visual arts, and it is accompanied by centuries of commentaries that recognise its exceptionalism and uniqueness.The location of Wood and Rock was unknown to the international scholarly community for most of the past century. A household name in the Chinese world, Su Shi is the quintessential “renaissance man” half a millennium before the Renaissance.
SU SHI (1037-1101)

WOOD AND ROCK

Details
SU SHI (1037-1101)
WOOD AND ROCK

Handscroll, ink on paper
Painting: 26.3 x 50 cm. (10 3/8 x 19 3/4 in.)
Painting and colophons: 26.3 x 185.5 cm. (10 3/8 x 73 in.)
Overall with mounting: 27.2 x 543 cm. (10 3/4 x 213 3/4 in.)
Colophons by Liu Liangzuo (11th century), Mi Fu (1051-1107), Yu Xilu (1278-1368) and Guo Chang (1563-1622)
Forty one collector’s seals, including one of Liu Liangzuo, twelve of Wang Houzhi (1131-1204), three of Yu Xilu, twelve of Yang Zun (circa 1294-after 1333), nine of Mu Lin (1429-1458), two of Li Tingxiang (1485-1544) and two of Guo Chang

Colophon by Liu Liangzuo:
It has been thirty years since Qiyun of Runzhou, the venerable Master Feng, resigned from his official position and followed the Way of Tao. Now in his seventies, his dark beard and hair ever glowing, he carries an elegant, calm air. As he showed me Wood and Rock by Dongpo [Su Shi], I hereby inscribe a poem for him, and still invite the respectable Haiyue [Mi Fu] to respond in the same rhyme. Liu Liangzuo of Shangrao.
From ancient dreams a rock rises from the clouds,
In vicissitude the wood sheds its skin;
Its gnarled branches forever blessed by the heavens,
Heroically defying worldly fates.
Unrolling the scroll brings me so much joy,
For true friends are rare behind closed doors.
Such a sight exists in the garden of my home,
Only embarrassed am I, to have forgotten to return.

Colophon by Mi Fu:
Fu, following the rhyme:
Who can say what it is like at the age of forty?
For three years, I haven’t had any new clothes made.
In poverty one understands the dangers of life;
In old age one feels the intricate wisdoms of Tao.
Already too late to devote oneself to an official career,
Not to mention how few souls truly know me.
Delighted am I to find such refined company,
In the autumn years of my life, I have yet to speak of returning home.

Colophon by Yu Xilu:
Having read Ode to Old Tree by Yu Zishan [Yu Xin, 513-581], I loved the incomparable sharpness of the language and tried to paint the old tree from my imagination, but to no avail. Now I see this painting by Dongpo where the proud, withered tree branches resemble giant creatures and dragons appearing and disappearing from stormy seas - a phenomenal result of the artist’s years of experience. I can almost see Zishan’s Ode coming to life! Master Liu of Shangrao and Master Mi of Xiangyang both composed fine poems; particularly, the calligraphy by Master Mi is most attractive. What a rare treasure combining both painting and calligraphy!
On the occasion of Zongdao [Yang Zun] showing me this fine scroll in his collection, I hereby inscribe my joy upon seeing it. Yu Xilu of
Jingkou.

Colophon by Guo Chang:
Withered wood, bamboo and rock by Su Changgong [Su Shi] with calligraphy by Mi Yuanzhang [Mi Fu] - a renowned work by two masters showcasing the finest achievements in both painting and calligraphy. A real treasure to be cherished! At the Pavilion of the Omniscient Mind. Jiayin year of the Wanli Reign (1614), two days after the Dragon Boat Festival.


Provenance
Property from a Japanese Private Collection
Previously in the So¯raikan Collection of Abe Fusajiro¯ (1868-1937)
Special notice

Bidding of the “Wood and Rock” by Su Shi, Lot 8008, will require a high value paddle designated for this Lot. Please contact us at su-shi@christies.com or +852 6111 9658 for details.
Post lot text
A Great Name of Chinese Cultural History
Su Shi was a true polymath, excelling in art, literature and statecraft. His legacy looms large over Chinese culture. Su’s verses were sung in the streets of the Song empire a thousand years ago, and remain mandatory reading for Chinese students today. He was a
child prodigy who went on to achieve the highest honours in the imperial civil service examination. At the tender age of 24 Su passed the incredibly arduous decree examination, awarded a rank never surpassed in the history of the Northern Song dynasty. In spite of his genius, Su’s career fell foul of court factionalism. He underwent successive exiles to ever more remote regions, dying en route back to the capital in 1101 after the end of his final exile. While Su’s voluminous writings have been preserved in China’s literary cannon, his paintings are exceedingly rare. Wood and Rock is the only example still in private hands.

An Artistic Revolution
Wood and Rock embodies a seismic shift in world art history. In his terse, controlled brushstrokes Su explores painting’s capacity to express an artist’s psychological communion with nature. His contemporaries in the Song imperial atelier were required to carefully reproduce the world they observed. Su admired their accomplishments, but eschewed their approach in his own work. Instead he pursued subjects he described as having “inconstant form but constant principle.” He conceived ink painting as a process that xternalised the moral character of the artist in the moment of creation. A millennium on, Su’s creative process is still visible to us today. We see it in the sinewy strength of the twisted tree, the carefully contoured structure of the rock, and the liquid flexibility of the newly sprouting bamboo. Court painters recorded a sumptuous world before their eyes. Wood and Rock takes us into the mind of the artist.

A Renowned Work by Two Masters
As the scroll unrolls past the painting we find commentaries inscribed by successive generations of connoisseurs and collectors. Mi Fu (1051-1107), a close friend of Su Shi, is foremost among this illustrious roll of inscribers. Both Su and Mi rank among the four greatest calligraphers of the Song dynasty. Mi’s short verse reflects on Su’s long life, the introspection he was inclined to in his later years, and the profound value of their shared friendship. The undulating turns of Mi’s brush and his careful balance of form and rhythm make his inscription a masterpiece in its own right. Su and Mi’s deep affinity is visible in their paired examples of artistic excellence and signify a glorious monument of World Culture.

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