J.J. Lally & Co., Oriental Art / New York City, New York


Current Exhibition

ELEGANTLY MADE: Art for the Chinese Literati

March 13-27, 2020


By Tang Zu (active circa 1700)
Qing Dynasty, Late 17th – Early 18th Century

in the form of an old prunus tree trunk aesthetically imagined with weathered and worn undulating bark showing rotted and insect-eaten areas but still sprouting buds and blossoms on branches carved in high relief on three sides, and with a pair of plump magpies perched on the principle branch, the plain hollow interior echoing the irregular shape of the exterior, the boxwood (huangyangmu) of rich honey color with a dark-stained hongmu platform stand fitted onto the open base, inscribed low on one side above the base with the artist’s signature: 又綦 Youqi and two seals: 湯 Tang and 組 Zu.

Height 5 12 inches (14 cm)

David Newman, London, 1983
Shuisongshi Shanfang Collection
The Franz Collection, Hong Kong, no. 1683

Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1986-1987

Tsang and Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, pp. 98-99, no. 59 and dust jacket front cover

Tang Zu (湯組, active circa 1700), zi 又綦 Youqi, was a scholar, painter and calligrapher from Taiping, Anhui province. He is recorded in the 1915 compendium by Li, Zhongguo yishujia zhenglue (Short Biographies of Chinese Artists) as “good at carving old wood roots into figures, birds and animals,” noting that “once in the hand they are difficult to put down.” The same information is repeated by Yu in Zhongguo meishujia renming cidian (Dictionary of Chinese Artist Names), Shanghai, 1981, with the source cited as by Hong in the 1815 publication Ningguo fu zhi (Gazette of the Ningguo fu), while the Zhongguo lidai shuhua zhuanke jia zi hao suoyin (Index of the zi and hao Chinese Painter, Calligrapher, and Seal Carver through the Dynasties), Taipei, 1980, adds that he worked during the Kangxi period (1662-1722).

The pair of magpies on a blossoming plum branch at one side of the trunk are emblematic of Spring and, as rebus, brings to mind the auspicious wish: “May you have happiness before your eyes” (喜上眉梢, xi shang mei shao).

The superb quality of the carving combined with the signature and seals of an early Qing dynasty scholar-artist make this a masterpiece and a great rarity. Tang Zu is recorded as a master carver and boxwood seals and other objects for the scholar’s table. No other brush pot bearing his signature is recorded.

清十七 – 十八世紀初 湯組製 黃楊木鏤雕「喜上梅梢」筆筒 高 14 厘米

來源 倫敦 David Newman 藏,1983
   香港 The Franz Collection,典藏編號 1683

展覽 香港大學馮平山博物館,1986 – 1987

出版 Tsang 及 Moss〈文玩萃珍〉,香港大學馮平山博物館,1986 年,
   98-99 頁,第 59 號及封面

Additional Images (Touch to enlarge)


By Tang Zu (active circa 1700)
Qing Dynasty, Late 17th – Early 18th Century

Height 5 12 inches (14 cm)