Lot 777. A carved smokey-quartz figure of Li Bai, 18th-19th century; 5 5/8 in. (14.3 cm.) long. Estimate USD 3,000 - USD 5,000. Price realised USD 20,000. © Christie's Image Ltd 2019.
The drunken poet is shown reclining beside an over-turned wine jar.
Provenance: Janis H. Palmer (1917-1984) Collection, Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago, accessioned in 1986.
Note: Li Bai (AD 701-762) was the foremost poet of the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) and, together with Du Fu, remains one of the most famous poets in Chinese history. His ambition to serve the Emperor Huizong as a statesman was thwarted when the Emperor employed him as a palace poet composing mundane lyrics for the Court. Frustrated, he left the Court and spent the rest of his life wandering the country and indulging in his love for wine.
A similar depiction of Li Bai, drunken and leaning against a wine jar, can be seen in soapstone figure dated to the 18th-19th century from the Irving Collection, sold at Christie’s New York, 21 March 2019, lot 1184.