Rare work

Au­tumn Hunt­ing of Yuan Peo­ple, which failed to find a buyer at a Bei­jing Poly auc­tion in 2007, will go un­der the ham­mer on Thurs­day. Lin Qi re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at linqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A paint­ing that was once in a Qing em­peror’s collection will go on the auc­tion block on Thurs­day.

Af­ter the over­throw of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), em­peror Pu Yi (1906-67) and the im­pe­rial house­hold were al­lowed by the Re­pub­lic of China (1911-49) gov­ern­ment to re­main in some parts of the For­bid­den City, aka the Palace Mu­seum.

But fear­ing that he would be ex­pelled from the palace, Pu Yi se­cretly moved out many clas­si­cal art­works and an­tiques, which had been in im­pe­rial col­lec­tions but be­came pub­lic hold­ings fol­low­ing the end of the monar­chy in China.

Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, on Jan 11, 1923, 32 tra­di­tional ink paint­ings were taken from the palace on Pu Yi’s or­ders. Among them was a 12.4-me­ter-long color scroll ti­tled Au­tumn Hunt­ing of Yuan Peo­ple.

The paint­ing de­picts a panoramic view of roy­als and troops of the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271-1368) camp­ing, hunt­ing and ban­quet­ing. It fea­tures vivid col­ors and de­tails.

The paint­ing will be auc­tioned at the in­au­gu­ral sale of the Shang­hai-based Poly Huayi Auc­tion on Thurs­day.

The auc­tion house was jointly es­tab­lished ear­lier this year by Bei­jing Poly In­terna- tional Auc­tion, Huayi Broth­ers Ven­ture Cap­i­tal and Tianchen Times.

The up­com­ing sale will also com­prise other clas­si­cal art, an­tiques, jew­elry and wines.

A pre­view will be held on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day at Shang­hai’s Jing An Shangri-La ho­tel.

Au­tumn Hunt­ing of Yuan Peo­ple was cat­a­loged in Shiqu Baoji, a prom­i­nent in­ven­tory of the Qing im­pe­rial collection of art com­piled on the or­ders of em­peror Qian­long.

Court ex­perts in­volved in the project listed the paint­ing as a joint ef­fort of anony­mous painters who served in the Yuan court and were fa­mil­iar with Mon­gol cus­toms.

But many mod­ern-day schol­ars date the paint­ing as hav­ing been done be­tween the late Ming (1368-1644) and early Qing dy­nas­ties. Their rea­son for this is be­cause the bulk of the 20 kinds of weapons fea­tured in the work were not pro­duced un­til the Ming Dy­nasty.

Some fig­ures in the paint­ing hold ar­que­bus (hack­but) guns, which were in­tro­duced into China only in the reign of Ming em­peror Ji­a­jing, ac­cord­ing to Nie Chongzheng, a re­tired re­searcher from the Palace Mu­seum.

The paint­ing also fea­tures some 700 fig­ures, in­clud­ing no­bles, court ladies, of­fi­cials and sol­diers.

A unique fea­ture of the work is that some of the sol­diers are women and some are seen smok­ing.

Nie says it was only when Ming em­peror Shen­zong was in power that to­bacco was brought to China.

Af­ter be­ing taken from the For­bid­den City, the paint­ing landed in the hands of pri­vate col­lec­tors. It then ap­peared at a Christie’s sale in New York in 1989, sell­ing for $1.87 mil­lion to a Taipei-based col­lec­tor.

That price was an auc­tion record for a clas­si­cal Chi­nese paint­ing and was not bro­ken un­til 2002, when Xiesh­eng Zhen­qin Tu, a Song Dy­nasty (960-1279) paint­ing, fetched 25.3 mil­lion yuan ($3.63 mil­lion) at a Bei­jing auc­tion.

Au­tumn Hunt­ing of Yuan Peo­ple was put up for sale at a Bei­jing Poly auc­tion in 2007, but wasn’t sold. Re­ports say con­cerns about when it was painted was a key rea­son bid­ders hes­i­tated.

The Shang­hai sale will also see the auc­tion of Qing painter Wang Hui’s Land­scape.

Wang is one of the Four Great Painters Sur­named Wang from the 17 th cen­tury for their achieve­ments in the shan­shui (moun­tain-and-wa­ter) paint­ing style. He is also one of the Six Mas­ter Painters of the early Qing Dy­nasty.

In the paint­ing, Wang in­te­grated the grandeur of the north­ern school with the south’s el­e­gance and schol­arly tastes.

The paint­ing boasts a sound prove­nance judg­ing from the seal stamps of sev­eral col­lec­tors on it. It was once owned by Zhang Xueliang (19012001), the Kuom­intang gen­eral who is known for co- in­sti­gat­ing the 1936 Xi’an In­ci­dent. Zhang was an avid col­lec­tor of clas­si­cal Chi­nese paint­ings since his 20s.

The paint­ing even has a piece of pa­per at­tached to it on which mas­ter painter Zhang Daqian made ap­pre­cia­tive com­ments about it in 1981.

Mean­while, paint­ings and cal­li­graphic pieces dated be­fore 1911 — the found­ing year of the Re­pub­lic of China — have reg­is­tered an eye­catch­ing per­for­mance in the auc­tion mar­ket this year. Five works from be­fore 1911 rank among the top 10 — by price — tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ings and cal­lig­ra­phy sold at auc­tion so far this year.

Zhao Xu, Poly’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, says the mar­ket for tra­di­tional paint­ings and cal­lig­ra­phy re­ceived a boost from 2009 when Bel­gian cou­ple Myr­iam and Guy Ul­lens auc­tioned their collection of clas­si­cal Chi­nese art, ac­quired mostly at in­ter­na­tional auc­tions.

“Top-notch art­works will arouse heated com­pe­ti­tion among su­per­rich col­lec­tors no mat­ter how the econ­omy fares,” he says.

Top-notch art­works will arouse heated com­pe­ti­tion among su­per­rich col­lec­tors no mat­ter how the econ­omy fares.” Zhao Xu, Poly’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor


Au­tum­nHuntin­gofYuanPeo­ple, be­lieved to be a joint ef­fort of anony­mous painters, de­picts a panoramic view of roy­als and troops of the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271-1368).

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