Signed by Shang Jun, Kangxi period
The seal of rectangular section, the top carved in shallow relief with two archaistic dragons flanking the carver’s signature Shang Jun in relief, above a band of interlocking ‘T’-scrolls around the rim.
The side inscription:
Carved by Jishan in the beginning of autumn in the renxu year (1802)
The seal inscription (intaglio zhuanshu, seven characters):
In the empty room, a few books remain
6 cm. high; 128 grams
Zhou Bin, sobriquet Shang Jun, was from the Zhangzhou area of Fujian, and active during the Kangxi period. He was famed for his soapstone carvings of figures and seals. It is said that he might have worked at the court, although there are no records in the palace that support this theory. Nevertheless, examples of his work exist in the Palace collection, a testament to their popularity. The carving of the archaic dragon scroll on the current seal is exceptional, with very crisp details and subtle undulation, exemplifying Zhou Bin’s mastery in soapstone carving. (Compare a pair of soapstone seals carved by Zhou Bin illustrated by Moss and Tsang in Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, p. 85 – fig.10)
It is common for one artist to make the seal, while another specialising in seal-script carving to carve the characters on the face. Qian Shanyang (1765–1807), sobriquet Jishan, was a native of Xiushui in the Zhejiang province. He was a grandson of scholar painter Qian Zai (1708–1793) and was himself well know for his painting and calligraphy. He studied bronze inscriptions and based his seal script on the Han style, with a unique sense of composition in arranging characters. He was one of a group of four seal carvers active in the Jiaxing area during the Mid-Qing period.
The studying of ancient bronze scripts became really popular in the Early Qing period amongst scholars, especially with the emphasis on philology in the Qianlong and Jiaqing era, as is shown in the style of the seal script on the current seal.