This autumn, Sotheby’s Fine Classical Chinese Paintings sale will be distinguished by two masterpieces formerly in the Qing Imperial Collection, namely Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback by renowned horse painter Ren Renfa and Landscapes after Si Kongtu by imperial scholars and painters Huang Yue and Zhao Bingchong.
Of impeccable provenance, these masterworks are complemented by a group of rare works from several important private collections, including Bada Shanren’s Lotus and Shitao’s Scholar Gazing Far into the Landscape from a private Singaporean collection; Wang Hui’s Landscape after Dong Yuan and Wang Jian’s Landscape after Dong Yuan from ‘The Estate of Frank J. Caufield’; and Xia Gui and Anonymous’s Landscapes from ‘The Mi Yun Hall’, a renowned private library in Zhejiang province during the late Qing to early Republican period owned by entrepreneur Jiang Ruzao (1876–1954).
For our autumn sales season, we are thrilled to be able to bring to the market two treasures formerly held in the Qing imperial collection. Faultless in quality, both were recorded in the prestigious imperial inventory of works compiled during the Qing dynasty, an invaluable mark of distinction prized by scholars and collectors alike over the centuries. The Qing emperors prided themselves on their appreciation of calligraphy, painting and literature – pursuits which are encapsulated to perfection in these exceptional works by Ren Renfa, Huang Ye and Zhao Bingchong. Elsewhere, beautifully refined works by ‘The Four Monks’ and ‘The Four Wangs’ sourced from distinguished private collections around the world imbue this very special sale with additional high points of interest.
Measuring two metres across, this widely published handscroll depicts five drunken princes – one of whom later became the Tang dynasty emperor Xuan Zong (685-762) – taking a joyous horse ride accompanied by four attendants. With much of Ren Renfa’s output either held in museums or owned by private collectors, the scroll is one of the rare surviving works by the painter to come to the market. Boasting impeccable provenance, it was kept in the imperial collection of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and catalogued in ‘Shiqu Baoji Xubian’, the second volume of the prestigious inventory of the Qing emperors’ collection of paintings and calligraphy. Following the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the painting was transported out of the Forbidden City in 1922 by Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China, and taken to the United States, where it finally was acquired by Walter Hochstadter, a well-known and distinguished dealer in Chinese art.
The Manchu Emperors were keen to embrace the culture of the Han dynasty, and Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong showed great enthusiasm in their appreciation of literary art, an interest which strongly influenced Qing imperial art. Epitomising this era, Landscapes after Si Kongtu is an exquisite compilation of calligraphy works and paintings inspired by an important book on the style of Chinese poetry by Si Kong Tu, a poet from the late Tang dynasty. Recorded in ‘Shiqu Baoji Sanbian’, the third volume of the prestigious inventory of the Qing emperors’ collection of paintings and calligraphy, Landscapes after Si Kongtu was co-created by the court officials Zhao Bingchong, who served as the Chief Editor of Shiqu Baoji Sanbian in his late years, and Huang Yue, the author of The Twenty-four Categories of Paintings, an important treatise on scholar painting theories during the Qing dynasty. More recently, this exceptional work was published in Catalogue of Recorded Paintings of Successive Dynasties by John Calvin Ferguson.
PROPERTIES FROM A PRIVATE SINGAPORE COLLECTION
PAINTINGS AND CALLIGRAPHY PREVIOUSLY FROM THE MI YUN HALL
Property from the Estate of Frank J. Caufield
Frank J. Caufield was a co-founder of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and an active community philanthropist, supporting and serving on the boards of Child Abuse Prevention and the San Francisco Film Festival Society. A devotee of art, music and films, he was also a former owner of Boz Scagg’s music club in San Francisco, Slim’s.