272. A Magnificent Chinese Scholar’s Rock

Probably Linghi County, Anhui Province,
Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)
Size: 53 cm high
Calcite with fitted rosewood base

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Chinese scholars liked to have rocks of varying sizes in their otherwise Spartan studios, which apparently gave them imaginative access to mountains, grottos and landscapes, inspiring them as they prepared their poems or paintings. Above all, these learned Chinese admired the rocks for ‘surfaces that suggest great age, forceful profiles that evoke the grandeur of nature, overlapping layers or planes that impart depth, and hollows or perforations that create rhythmic, harmonious patterns.’ ‘Wrinkling’ was one of the four desirable qualities of rocks defined during the Tang Dynasty; a shiny surface added to its allure, as did a resonant ringing sound when struck. Eroded and polished by water, this rock possesses all of these qualities, while each of its sides provides a lively playing-field for the imagination. 

Provenance: Jean-Claude Ciancimino Collection, London