The Marble Court

The Chinese Scholar's World

The Chinese Scholar's World presents an extraordinary model of artistic engagement with natural phenomena. Over the centuries, the educated elite in China cultivated an interest in rocks with striking profiles, fantastic contortions, or exceptional coloration. Large examples were normally placed in formal gardens, but smaller rocks became staple items in scholars' studios. Regarded as miniature versions of China's soaring mountains or marvelous embodiments of the essential forces of nature, they were prized as objects of contemplation and connoisseurship. Many remained in a completely natural state, but were transformed into art by being set into elaborately carved mounts. Others were subtly enhanced by poetic inscriptions or discreet carving, and were given additional functions as inkstones, brushrests, or incense burners.

This selection of objects is drawn from the collection of Richard Rosenblum, a pioneering collector of Chinese scholars' rocks in the West and an artist whose own work was profoundly inspired by their captivating qualities.