Lot 1012
  • 1012


15,000,000 - 20,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Sanyu
  • Deux nus allongés; Nu (double-sided)
  • signed in Chinese and French
  • ink and oil on mosonite
executed in the 1940s


Private European Collection
Christie’s, Hong Kong, 25 November 2007, Lot 219
Bayeux Encheres Sarl, Bayeux, 4 July 2010, Lot 120
Acquired directly from the above by the present important private Asian collector


Paris, Guimet Museum, Language of Body, 16 June - 13 September, 2004, p. 146


Rita Wang, ed., Sanyu Catalogue Raisonné: Oil Paintings Volume II, The Li Ching Cultural and Educational Foundation, Taipei, 2011, plate 263, p. 70


The work is overall in good condition. It has been restored, and the restoration report is available upon request.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A Generational Battle: Sanyu, Deux nus allongés
The subject of female nudes was a lifelong interest of Sanyu’s, one that can be regarded as the starting point of his entire artistic journey. After leaving to study in Paris in the early 1920s, Sanyu spent the next decade devoted to sketching, many of those sketches featuring the nude female figure. At the time, modern art was caught in a critical, raging moment of development, teeming with myriad ideologies and artistic styles. Portraits and female nudes, in particular, were the focus of devoted and meticulous study by many artists. Artists like Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, and Tsuguharu Foujita were all aspiring to break new ground in the portrayal of the female form. Naturally, Sanyu joined the wave of this ambition, establishing his own unique style, and jousting for victory amongst his contemporaries. In 2004, the Museé Guimet in Paris hosted an important solo exhibition for Sanyu, focusing on Sanyu’s female nudes. The exhibition was entitled “Sanyu: Body Language” (Sanyu: L’ecruiture du corps), a testament to the Western curator’s understanding of Sanyu’s female nudes being the key to understanding and appreciating his infusion of the Eastern spirit within his works.
Deux nus allongés (Lot 1012) emerged from this larger environmental context. With the female nude as the subject, the work showcases Sanyu’s individual style while also illustrating the artist’s attachment to a specific historical era and his timely aspirations. The painting belonged exclusively to a private French collector until it was exhibited in 2004 at the Museé Guimet, when it was subsequently transferred into the collection of an important Asian private collector. At the time of its creation, Sanyu had already assimilated into Western culture, establishing deep friendships with many European artists, with even Kiki de Montparnasse rumoured to have been a model for Sanyu’s brush. Yet Sanyu was never submerged by the prodigious influence of the Western tradition. In fact, Double Nudes testifies to the artist’s strong personal style. Steeped in the spirit of Eastern culture, the painting reveals an emphasis on the Chinese tradition of pure and precise lines. Compared to other nude paintings by Sanyu, the medium and techniques of this work embody in particular an Eastern flavour, which can only be intentional upon the artist’s part. According to current records, this is the artist’s sole ink and oil painting of a female nude subject. Graceful and gentle lines of ink sketch the outline of the two female figures. This use of ink in Sanyu’s predominantly oil-based repertoire is highly rare and unusual.
The artist had once created another painting of two female nudes in a similar arrangement, Nu noir et blanc, completed in thick and colourful oils, bestowing the scene with a rich, enchanting, and dream-like atmosphere. Deux nus allongés takes the opposite approach, the entire background coated in an ivory colour, as though the artist were invoking the effect of liubai or “leaving blank” from the Chinese tradition, the white spaces conveying an ethereal clarity unique to Chinese traditional art. The outlines of the female forms are sketched simply in black ink, the concision of the lines conveying a feeling of intimate intersection between the two women’s bodies, as though they have become inseparable, harmoniously united. This sentiment of intimate union is more powerfully conveyed here than in the bodies of Nu noir et blanc, which are rendered in oil.
Behind the painting is a sketch of another oil painting Nu.