Lot 29
  • 29

Le Pho

680,000 - 880,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Le Pho
  • Reverie (Rêverie)
  • Signed in English and Chinese and stamped with a seal of the artist
  • Ink and gouache on silk 
  • 46 by 31.5 cm.; 18 by 12 1/4 in.


Private Collection, France
Acquired by an ancestor of the Present Owner prior to 1937 thence by descent 

Catalogue Note

“His canvases are like charming visions in which the purity of line and delicacy of the chromatic range confer a real beauty.”

— La Reuve Moderne

Le Pho graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Hanoi under the tutelage of French artists Victor Tardieu (1870—1937) and Joseph Inguimberty (1896—1971). He was one of the eight specially handpicked students to receive a diploma in 1930. Almost immediately afterwards, Le Pho was chosen by the government of Indochina to assist the artistic director Victor Tardieu at the 1931 Exposition Coloniale Internationale in Paris, where he decorated the Lacquer Salon at the Angkor-Wat Pavilion. Le Pho’s first foreign exposure inspired him to explore the far ends of Europe and China, seeing firsthand many great paintings by Medieval, Renaissance and Impressionist masters, and absorbing the styles from the Song, Ming and Qing dynasties. The young artist especially marveled at the treasures and religious art within the many cathedrals, monasteries and palaces that he saw during his travels. Indeed, subject matters relating to European religious art were prevailing features that Le Pho would continue to explore in his subsequent works.

Executed circa 1940s, the present work Reverie (Rêverie) is a rare example of Le Pho’s early style that was evident during the most experimental and formative period of his artistic career. Just as the 1930's and 1940's were shaped by an intense period of learning and traveling, his art during this phase was also characterized by a sense of excitement and curiosity. In the present work the artist challenges himself to create a descriptive composition. Set within an intimate interior, the seated protagonist is a young lady who embodies the Vietnamese ideal of feminine beauty: downcast eyes, porcelain skin and raven-black hair. She is looking downwards, as if in mid-thought, while crossing her forearms and exposing her slim, elegant fingers from the dark-colored ao dai attire.

In the background is a small painting of the Madonna and Child, illustrating Le Pho’s reverence for maternal tenderness on one hand, and paying homage to his source of inspiration on the other. Depicting the small religious painting next to the feminine ideal, the work may be interpreted as a celebration of womanhood and an extension of love, beauty, sex, fertility and prosperity, as defined by Venus in Greco-Roman mythology. The artwork is reminiscent of Flemish, Italian and Germanic artists, such as Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli, the Master of Moulins, Sandro Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Memling, and the late Gothic painter, Stephen Lochner. Reverie (Rêverie) is an extremely rare gem that remains close to Le Pho’s heart.

The present work is part of an important and fruitful phase of Le Pho’s impressive repertoire. Throughout the 1940's, Le Pho held exhibitions in many cities including Algeria, Morocco, Buenos Aires, Paris and Brussels. Evident in the portrait is a fluid transparency of colors, coupled with the refinement of design that has elevated the discipline of silk painting to new heights. Reverie (Rêverie) is a fine example of the highest caliber of art that was produced during the height of French colonization in Vietnam.