Lot 3167. A carved bamboo 'Liu Hai' brushpot, signed Wu Zhifan, Qing dynasty, 18th century; 15.3 cm., 6 in. Estimate 200,000 — 250,000 HKD. Lot sold 250,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby's 2013

of cylindrical form, deftly carved through the reddish-brown surface to the paler striated ground beneath, depicting Liu hai standing below tall knotty pines, the corpulent immortal carrying a broom on his shoulder supporting his three-leg toad companion, clutching a double gourd in his left hand and a tasseled coin in the right, a veil draping his shoulder and bare torso, the reverse incised with a four-column poetic inscription in clerical script signed Wu Zhifan zhi, fitted with a hardwood rim and tripod base, the latter apocryphally inscribed with an appreciation signed Da Cheng and dated to the winter of the Jichou year of Guangxu (1899) with seal reading Ke Zhai ('Studio of Respect').

NoteWu Zhifan was active in the Kangxi period and is recorded as the first to carve figures and other forms in low relief on an almost plain background. Wu is said to have acquired the traditional Jiading style and excelled in high-relief carving. It was however, his distinctive style of depicting figures in shallow relief against minimal background and his depiction of pine trees which made him renowned among the bamboo carving artists of the period. 

For more information on Wu, see a bamboo brushpot from the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat Collection currently being offered in these rooms, Scholarly Art IIIlot 188.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. Hong Kong, 08 april 2013