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Yuan dynasty scroll painting sets record in auction

CCTV.com

12-07-2016 17:43 BJT

Three Chinese classical paintings grossed 663 million yuan at an auction Sunday night. The top lot, a Yuan dynasty scroll painting called “Five Drunken Kings Return on Horses,” fetched 303 million yuan,  becoming the most expensive Chinese artwork auctioned this year.

The painting was created by Ren Renfa, a prominent painter of horses and also a high-ranking official in the Yuan dynasty. It exemplifies Ren

The painting was created by Ren Renfa, a prominent painter of horses and also a high-ranking official in the Yuan dynasty. It exemplifies Ren's master techniques of portraying animals and figures.

The painting was created by Ren Renfa, a prominent painter of horses and also a high-ranking official in the Yuan dynasty. It exemplifies Ren’s master techniques of portraying animals and figures.

The painting is also famous for its theme. The five drunken kings depicted on it include one who later became the Tang dynasty emperor Xuan Zong. The painting vividly portrays the happy brotherhood between Xuan Zong and his brothers before he became an emperor. The painting was cataloged in Shi Qu Bao Ji, an inventory of the Qing dynasty’s imperial collections.

The painting aroused heated bidding during the night, from the starting bid of 68 million to the final 264 million yuan, which came to 303.6 million with commission fees.

“The Qing dynasty court collected nine pieces by Ren Renfa, eight of which are now owned by museums. And the most significant one is this one depicting the five drunken kings. So this is a very important work from the Song and Yuan dynasties,” said Zhao Xu, executive director, Poly Auction.

The painting was later transported abroad by the Qing dynasty’s last emperor Pu Yi and acquired by German-born collector Walter Hochstadter. After his death, the Hochstadter family sold it at Christie’s auction in Hong Kong in 2009.

Ren Renfa, whose main job was managing water projects, was asked by the emperor to draw the horses raised in the royal court.

“He drew horses in his leisure time. But reached a very high level in this. This work probably represents the highest achievement in drawing horses in ancient China,” said Li Xuesong, deputy director, Poly Auction.

The piece fetched more than 46 million Hong Kong dollars in 2009, a skyhigh price then. But Sunday’s price was more than seven times that. 

Another notable sale during the auction included contemporary master Qi Baishi’s Painting Album of Landscapes, which sold for 195 million yuan. The album, created in 1931, includes 12 leaves, each featuring a landscape inspired by Qi's travels across the country and memories of his native Hunan Province. 

The third biggest sale of the night was Zhang Daqian’s splash color piece Snow-capped Mountains in Switzerland, which was sold for 164 million yuan. The master applied only blue and green ink to create a natural scene of splendor and an effect of translucency and luster.

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