An­cient paint­ing’s sale sets record

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIN QI linqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Five Drunken Kings on Horses, a Chi­nese clas­si­cal paint­ing of the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271-1368), sold for 303.6 mil­lion yuan ($44 mil­lion) at a Beijing auc­tion on Sun­day night, a record high for a Chi­nese paint­ing so far this year.

The color paint­ing drew a packed room of bid­ders at Beijing Poly Auc­tion’s sale of an­cient Chi­nese paint­ings and cal­lig­ra­phy. The bidding started at 68 mil­lion yuan and lasted about 40 min­utes.

Zhao Xu, Poly Auc­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said af­ter the sale that the trans­ac­tion price was far be­yond expectations, given that the mar­ket for Chi­nese art has been in a slump over the past three years.

The paint­ing was cre­ated by Ren Renfa (1255-1327), a high-rank­ing of­fi­cial in charge of wa­ter con­ser­vancy in the Mon­gol-ruled court. In his spare time, he achieved promi­nence as a painter of horses and grooms.

Zhao said that Ren’s paint­ing de­serves a high price be­cause his works are quite rare — about 20 pieces in to­tal, many of which are in the col­lec­tions of art mu­se­ums around the world, mak­ing the auc­tioned one a rare piece available to pri­vate col­lec­tors.

The paint­ing, a 2-me­ter-long hand scroll, de­picts Li Longji, then the King of Linzi be­fore as­cend­ing the throne as the sev­enth em­peror of the Tang Dy­nasty (618-907), and his four broth­ers re­turn­ing from a feast.

The paint­ing demon­strates Ren’s master tech­niques of high­light­ing the de­tails of horses, and the way that he built up col­ors and shad­ings lends a dy­namic feel to the fig­ures’ cos­tumes.

The paint­ing was kept in the im­pe­rial col­lec­tion of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) and was cat­a­loged in Shiqu Baoji, a pres­ti­gious in­ven­tory of the Qing em­per­ors’ as­sem­bly of paint­ings and cal­li­graphic pieces.

The paint­ing was trans­ported out of the For­bid­den City by Pu Yi, the Q ing em­peror who was forced to ab­di­cate, in 1922. In the late 1940s, it was taken to the United States, where it was ac­quired by col­lec­tor Wal­ter Hochstadter.

Af­ter Hochstadter died in 2007, his fam­ily sold the paint­ing for HK$46 mil­lion ($5.93 mil­lion) at a Christie’s auc­tion in Hong Kong in 2009.

In Poly’s sale of mod­ern Chi­nese paint­ings on the same night, Paint­ing Al­bum of Land­scapes by Qi Baishi (1864-1957) brought 195.5 mil­lion yuan, the sec­ond-high­est price paid for Qi’s work at auc­tion.

Qi’s Ea­gle on Pine Trees sold for 425.5 mil­lion yuan at a Bei- jing auc­tion in 2011, a record for the artist.

The most ex­pen­sive clas­si­cal Chi­nese ink art sold at auc­tion is Di Zhu Ming, a cal­li­graphic hand scroll by Song Dy­nasty master Huang Tingjian that fetched 436.8 mil­lion yuan in Beijing in 2010.

COUR­TESY OF BEIJING POLY AUC­TION

FiveDrunk­enKing­sonHorses, a paint­ing by Ren Renfa (1255-1327), was auc­tioned for $44 mil­lion on Sun­day night.

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