Large Bamboo Brush Pot Carved with the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, with Hardwood Mounts
height: 26cm (including hardwood mounts), diameter: 14.2cm
The large and finely carved bamboo brushpot depicts the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (竹林七賢) with attendants in a garden setting on one side. On the reverse is a central roundel of Shou-lao with a phoenix carved above and a pair of deer carved below and a large oval roundel to either side each of which is carved with a phoenix with long flowing tail feathers.
The brushpot sits on a low, round hardwood tray and has an elaborate domed hardwood cover that is intricately carved with bottle gourds (葫蘆) and their associated entwined leafy vines. Such gourds are heavily imbued with mystical and auspicious meaning.
The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (竹林七賢) were a group of Chinese Daoist Qingtan scholars, writers, and musicians who by tradition came together in the 3rd century AD.
Key members of the seven were linked with the Daoist Cao Wei; they found their lives to be in danger when the avowedly Confucian Jin Dynasty came to power. They wrote Daoist and political poems, and manuals on Daoist mysticism.
As is traditionally depicted, the group wished to escape the intrigues, corruption and rigid atmosphere of court life. They gathered in a bamboo grove in Shanyang (now in Henan province) where they pursued a simple and somewhat hedonistic rustic life. The Seven Sages enjoyed plenty of wine and merriment, personal freedom, spontaneity and a celebration of nature.
The theme was popular with bamboo carvers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries albeit with myriad variation.
This brushpot is relatively large compared with most extant examples that are of bamboo. The carving is crisp and dense. The hardwood mounts are most attractive. The condition is very fine: there are no losses to the carving.
UK art market
Christie’s Hong Kong, ‘Fine Chinese Bamboo Carvings from the Personal Collection of Mr and Mrs Gerard Hawthorn’, December 3. 2008.
Inventory no.: 1142