Lot 28
  • 28

Le Pho

550,000 - 750,000 HKD
1,240,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Le Pho
  • Portrait de Jeune Femme à la Branche de Lotus (Portrait of A Young Woman With Lotus Branch)
  • Signed in English and Chinese, stamped with a seal of the artist and dated 1939
  • Ink and gouache on silk laid on board


Private Collection, USA

Catalogue Note

"In the pond there is no flowers as beautiful as the lotus,
Green leaves, white petals and yellow seeds inside.
Oh, yellow seeds, white petals and green leaves,
Even though you grew in the mud of the pond, your smell is still perfumed”

 — A Vietnamese traditional poem

The works of the Vietnamese artist Le Pho are characterized by a distinct elegance, paired together with an imagination and artistry that immediately suggests a background of culture and taste. The artist’s technique is a unique synthesis of Oriental motifs and astute Western insights, the paintings conveying sentiments that are pure, poetic and enigmatic. Revered as a distinguished twentieth century Vietnamese Master of silk painting, Le Pho is among the most highly sought after artists from Southeast Asia today.

The painter was born in Hadong, a town to the South of Hanoi in North Vietnam, and grew up in a family of distinguished Mandarins. He was the son of Le Hoan who was the Viceroy of Tonkin during the reign of Emperor Ham Nghi. Le Pho received a prestigious education, both at home and abroad. The present Lot, Portrait de Jeune Femme à La Branche de Lotus (Portrait of a Young Woman with Lotus), is a beautiful work of art that exemplifies the artist’s unparalleled virtuosity in handling silk as a medium, as well as his eloquent depiction of human charm.

Executed in 1939, after Le Pho’s first exhibition overseas in Paris, Portrait de Jeune Femme à La Branche de Lotus (Portrait of a Young Woman with Lotus), is an exquisite work that demonstrates a newfound confidence in his artistic expression. Inspired by his recent travels, the portrait exudes an elegant stillness that is comparable to portraits seen in European religious art. Rendering the young woman in a close up view, Le Pho demonstrates his innate understanding of female beauty. The young woman gathers her slender fingers together, while gently holding a lotus flower close to her face to enjoy its delicate aroma. She tilts her head to one side in a manner that suggests motherhood, servility and compassion. With the petals lightly touching her lips, the woman’s graceful gesture creates a portrait that is both demure and sensual. From the blackest of black and the boldest of vermillion, to the brightest of white, Le Pho relinquishes his composition from extraneous elements. Though the painting is comprised of solid colors, the translucent fabric of the silk enhances the diaphaneity of his color palettes, giving the subject a luminous, lit from within-like quality. Purity is represented symbolically by the lotus motif, for the flower grows out of muddy water, and blooms pristinely above the surface, untouched and unstained by earthly impurities.

Le Pho’s early ink and gouache on silk interpretations of feminine beauty are one of the most sought-after subject matters in his prolific oeuvre. The artist imbues his paintings with a spirit that is unique to each composition, as well as contingent to the time and place of the work’s creation. The solitary composition of Portrait de Jeune Femme à La Branche de Lotus (Portrait of a Young Woman with Lotus) imbues the work with a lyrical melancholy—a sense of longing that is emphasized by the gesture of the delicate petals that graze against the young woman’s soft cheek.