"Sotheby's Asia Week series of auctions in New York have been a triumph across all areas." Commented Henry Howard-Sneyd, Vice Chairman, Asian Art at Sotheby's, "The $14 million Ming Dynasty Buddhist Sutra led the week of auctions achieving the top price of any sale at any auction house. Now established as a major event on the art world calendar, Asia Week draws collectors from around the world at the highest level, with the result that we have seen outstanding prices for more than 3,000 years of Asian Art."
Twice every year, Sotheby's Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy auctions bring forth impressive offerings from around the world. This March, calligraphy highlights include a handscroll in cursive script by Zhu Yunming and an album of twelve leaves by Li Dongyang. Zhu Yunming is an outstanding calligrapher whose hand writing showed distinctly different influences. The hand scroll to be offered in March is written in large-scale running-cursive script with individual characters each exceeding a square inch. Zhu models his calligraphy characters after Mi Fu, however, he prides himself as a conscientious Wu region literate and achieves sensitivity in place of the wild, irrationality typical in artworks by Mi Fu.
Li Dongyang was an important court official during the mid-Ming Dynasty; he served as the Director of Board of Rites and Grand Secretary of Pavilion of the Imperial Library. His album of twelve leaves to be offered in March is written in fist-size text. Every brush stroke exerts vital energy and uncompromised freedom. The content of the scroll is a poem composed by Li Gang from the Song dynasty. Li Dongyang rewrote the poem in Ming Dynasty -- despite the passage of time, emotions flowed through the tip of his brush as if the poem was his own. A colophon by Yi Bingshou at the end of the scroll is also a fine example of friendship between scholar literati.
Paintings in the March sale are led by an album of twelve leaves by Shitao, a handscroll by Gong Xian and a hanging scroll by Wang Yuanqi. Shitao applied various shades of dry and moist brushstrokes, an elegantly subtle color palette, and an unconventional composition to express his distinctive personality. Most noticeable is his calligraphy that accompanies the landscape paintings. His brush strokes may appear to be thin as the leg of a mosquito or thick as the stem of a hair stick; individual characters may resemble a sensible gentleman, or an unruly wild-haired Daoist monk; the rows of text are sometimes loosely aligned as if intended for horseracing, and sometimes tightly interlocked as if windproof; and the tonality of ink from dark to light is natural and unpretentious. This is unquestionably a rare masterpiece by Shitao.
The equally delightful landscape handscroll by Gong Xian depicts endless mountains and streams, flourishing trees and grass, picturesque hills and rocks. The artist alternates depth, breadth and height in composition and attempts to subdue his earlier darker style in pursuit of a luminous outlook. Also in the sale is a hanging scroll landscape painting by Wang Yuanqi in the style of Huang Gongwang. The mild touch of brushstrokes, although born from Huang Gongwang, is verily an expression of authentic emotions. Famous collector C. C. Wang to the side of the painting embellishes the scroll with an inscription. Additional highlights in the sale include a landscape handscroll by Xiao Yuncong, landscape on gold-dusted album leaves by Li Liufang, an album of eight leaves after great masters by Wang Jian, and modern paintings such as Qi Baishi, Wu Changshuo’s chrysanthemums and Zhang Daqian’s bird-and-flower composition. Please join us during Asia Week to view our carefully curated finds.