Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
The ivory seal is of square section with rounded edges. The knop is decorated with an openwork band of cranes supporting a large lotus pod, intricately rendered with eight moving lotus seeds. The seal face is carved in relief with the characters Xiangguan zhai 湘管齋 “Xiang Bamboo Handle Studio”; inset within a thin banded border.
Although Xianguan zhai is one of studio names of Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593), the prominent late Ming painter, calligrapher, poet, critic, playwright, and doyen of literati taste, [See Contag and Wang, Seals of Chinese Painters and collectors of the Ming and Ch’ing Periods, 673, number 14. Note: “Xiang bamboo” is a species of mottled bamboo from the Xiang river area.], it is more likely that the seal stone belongs to Chen Zhuo 陳焯 (fl. 1851-1861), who so admired Xu that he took on one of Xu’s studio names, Xiangguan zhai, and copied that name exactly as it was inscribed on Xu’s original seal.
Chen’s personal name ( 字) was Yingzhi 英之, his sobriquet ( 號) was Wuxuan 無軒 “Nothingness Veranda”, and he was a native of Wucheng 烏程 in Zhejiang. He was a painter and has an extensive seal collection, whose catalogue he published as the Xiangguan zhao 湘管齋寓賞編 (Appreciated Examples From the Xiang Bamboo Handle Studio In-House Collection).