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A lost masterpiece from the Qianlong Era to make its auction debut
Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan by Qian Weicheng. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

HONG KONG.- This April Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present a highly important handscroll, Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan, the greatest masterpiece of the renowned imperial court painter Qian Weicheng. This rediscovered heirloom has reemerged and is making its auction debut after a hundred years. Presented in ten sections, the scroll depicts ten spectacular views of Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang province and is also inscribed with ten poems written by the Qianlong Emperor. The work is estimated at HK$50,000,000 - 70,000,000 / US$ 6,400,000-8,960,000, and is offered in a dedicated sale titled A Rediscovered Imperial Heirloom on 3 April 2018 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

QIAN WEICHENG (1720-1772), Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan. Ink and colour on paper, handscroll, 33.7 x 458 cm. Estimate: HK$50,000,000 - 70,000,000 / US$ 6,400,000-8,960,000
Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan by Qian Weicheng is an exemplar of the Golden Age of Qing court art during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, a time of unprecedented artistic creativity and appreciation. Qian Weicheng came first in the palace examination held in the 10th year of the Qianlong reign (1745). A virtuoso in literary composition and painting, he was a court favorite of the Emperor and was always selected to accompany him on official inspection tours. In addition to expressing his appreciation for the landscape, the ten poems inscribed by Emperor Qianlong on each respective section of the scroll also commemorate his favored artist.

Measuring 458 cm wide and 33.7 cm long, the present scroll comprises ten sections, each portraying one of the ten magnificent views of Mount Tiantai and accompanied by a short account of the view in small regular script. Having adopted the deep-distance composition that allows the painting surface to be filled with peaks, valleys, streams, waterfalls, woods and historic sites all at the same time, Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan is a representation of the apex of Qian Weicheng’s artistic career.

Emperor Qianlong’s inscriptions on the scroll were dated two years after the passing of Qian Weicheng. It can be inferred that the painting was made during or shortly after Qian’s tenure as Education Commissioner of Zhejiang between 1763 and 1765.

Making its Auction Debut after Turbulent Ordeals
Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan has been recorded in the Sequel to the Precious Collection of the Stone Canal Pavilion and originally kept in the Ningshou Gong of the Forbidden City. In the early 1920s, the Last Emperor Pu Yi devised a plan to migrate inventoried imperial works of art out of the Forbidden City by bestowing these treasures upon his brother Pu Jie. Among the books covering the Song to Ming dynasties, over 200 in number, and more than 1,000 paintings and calligraphy works, Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan was one of them. The treasures were temporarily lodged in Pu Yi’s father’s residence before being transferred to Tianjin. In 1925, after Pu Yi was himself ordered out of the Forbidden Palace, the "Qing Dynasty Aftermath Committee" was taking stock when, to their excitement, the lists of objects that Pu Yi had bestowed on Pu Jie and which had been so discreetly removed from the Forbidden City were uncovered. The lists, which include the present scroll painting, show the work to be bestowed on Pu Jie in 1922. Had it not been for the occurrence of this troubled series of events, Ten Auspicious Landscapes of Taishan by Qian Weicheng may not have survived to be presented before us today.

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