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Sotheby's Classical Chinese painting sale to be held in New York during Asia Week
Hongren, Landscape After Lu Guang, 1658. Ink on paper, hanging scroll, 86.3 x 35.3 cm. Est. $1/1.2 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- On March 22, 2012, Sotheby’s New York will present Fine Classical Chinese Paintings, the debut sale of this category in Sotheby’s New York March Asia Week series of events. The auction will include a rich and varied selection of fine paintings and calligraphy dating from the 12th century to the 20th century. The number of important and rare works, many from private collections and fresh to the market, is particularly notable. The sale, which consists of more than 160 lots, is expected to bring $9.7 to 13.6 million. The exhibition will open in Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning March 16th.

The auction will feature fourteen Exquisite Fan Paintings from an Important European Collection, led by Calligraphy in Various Script Forms by the emperors of the Southern Song, 12th to 13th Century (Lot 686, est. $750,000/1 million). Originally three separate fan leaves and one album leaf, now mounted as a handscroll, the current lot includes poems written by the first four emperors of the Southern Song Dynasty, beginning with Emperor Gaozong, who established the Southern Song Dynasty in 1127.

An additional highlight is Landscape After Lu Guang by Hongren, a leading artist of the Huangshan School in the late Ming Dynasty (Lot 644, est. $1/1.2 million). The hanging scroll is one of four works on offer from the Ching Yuan Chai Collection of Chinese paintings, which was put together over the course of three decades by Professor James Cahill. Professor Cahill is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese painting and his collection is particularly strong in works from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Paintings by Hongren rarely appear on the market and a work of this quality will be highly sought after.

Another magnificent work from the collection, Temples On Mountains Of The Immortals, by Wen Jia (Lot 643, est. $200/300,000), is a masterful synthesis of Daoist symbolism, narrative description and literati aesthetic. It is doubtless one of the finest paintings by the artist. All four works from the Ching Yuan Chai Collection have been published multiple times and have been exhibited in major museums throughout North America since the 1960s.

A group of 25 paintings from An Important American Collection, formed mainly during the 1930s and 1940s in Shanghai, will also be featured. The collection includes representative examples by several leading artists as well as a number of exceptional works by lesser known names, such as Pan Simu’s Record of Dreams From The Listening To Autumn Studio, an album of eight elaborately composed dream scenes dedicated to one of most renowned female poets of the 19th century, Luo Qilan (Lot 613, est. 60/80,000).

Coming from the estate of enigmatic collector Walter Hochstadter, Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove by Chen Hongshou, a predominant figure painter of the 17th century, is an extremely fine example of the artist’s unique style and archaistic brushwork. (Lot 652, est. $500/700,000). The handscroll includes a colophon by the 19th century painter Bao Dong, dated 1867, which praises Chen Hongshou’s divine, lofty, and archaic style. The following lot in the auction is Bao Dong’s own version of Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove – his painterly tribute to Chen Hongshou – which is a masterpiece in its own right (Lot 653, est. $100/150,000).

Eagle Perching on the Pine is a superb example of one of the signature themes of the great 20th century master Qi Baishi (Lot 700, est. $1.2/1.5 million). The subject matter is one of the artist’s most beloved. The pine tree represents longevity, while the eagle signifies heroism. Qi Baishi dedicated this painting to a Guomingtang official who was stationed in Beijing in 1946, and the work has remained in the family ever since.

Paintings from An Important Private Collection include a group of twelve works, all of which were purchased in the 1980s on the international art market, mainly from Sotheby’s salerooms. The diverse selection demonstrates the collector’s impeccable taste. Exceptional works include Landscape, After Huang Gongwang by Wang Yu, which is one of the most monumental works by the artist and displays his refined and elegant brushwork (Lot 746, est. $60/80,000).

The March 22nd sale of Fine Classical Chinese Paintings represents one of the finest groups of Chinese paintings ever assembled for sale at auction in America.

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