A direct descendant of the Emperor of Annam, Lechi was born in Hanoi, Vietnam as the daughter of late Princess Nam Tran and the late Ambassador, Tran Van Chuong – one of the prominent families of early twentieth-century Vietnam. Her only sister, Le Xuan (known as Madame Nhu), was married to the brother of Ngo Dinh Diem, the president of the newly established Republic of Vietnam from 1955. Madame Nhu came to become an acting first lady after the death of her husband.Princess Lechiand her two daughters left Vietnam in 1955 and eventually settled in North Carolina in 1962, where she dedicated herself to teaching language and culture to soldiers. Remarkably, Princess Lechi earned herself a doctorate and became a writer on cultural integration to the United States.
The avid collector was an accomplished artist of her own right, whose enigmatic collection to emerge from her estate is timeless in its historic preserve. The all-encompassing works spanning genres and mediums from inks and gouaches on silks, to chalks on paper and lacquer works, are reminiscent of a royal collection cataloged to perfection. Lechi was a woman who wanted, and deserved it all.
But the large paintings are most profound; so redolent of a woman who valued her place in society. It is worth noting, that such exquisite, early works originating from 1933 and 1934 by prolific artist Mai Thu are remarkably difficult to obtain. In most of the works, singular figures of women dominate the picture frame, containing seemingly forthright homages to independence and serving as a nod to the strong-willed female spirit. At the same time, the paintings convey a sincere tenderness for pieces that connected the Princess to her home country, as though alive with nostalgia for a bygone era. After all, these were the objects surrounding her for the majority of her life and the Princess ensured she remained committed to her country and its culture. The artworks are testaments of the kinds of possessions a woman of extreme vigor and tenacity would surround herself with.
From two-dimensional to three-dimensional offerings, a single, pearl hairpin accompanied by a cigar box blanketed with a chromatic veil and delicate inscription become the ultimate attestation of a tasteful collection. Paintings with idyllic illustrations of cranes, lotuses and fish rendered with elegant brushstrokes allow her personality and essence to shine through. In the same vein as the pieces she accumulated over time, the Princess was a woman of great beauty and personal charm, and her palate for the finer things is obvious by the comprehensive range of materials spanning these rarities.
Formerly from the monumental Estate of the late Princess of Vietnam, Sotheby’s is delighted to present some of the great Vietnamese artistic legacies of the mid-20th century, courtesy of an honorable and benevolent Princess.
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