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Candid glimpse of the Daoguang Emperor leaves a lasting impression at Bonhams
Liu Guosong’s (Born 1932) “Which is Earth? No.96” from the artist’s 1970-1971 series, inspired by the moon landing, doubled its estimate to reach $125,000. Photo: BOnhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- An informal portrait of the Daoguang Emperor (1782-1850) from the early 19th century reigned at Bonhams Chinese Art from the Scholar’s Studio sale on March 17. The vibrant composition sold for more than seven times the pre-sale estimate, reaching $389,000 after a lengthy bidding war. The portrait shows the Emperor at leisure, wearing semi-formal court robes (jifu), and gazing steadily as if to acknowledge the presence of the viewer. Unlike a formal depiction, this relatively casual view of the emperor in his study provides a window to the material culture and a more personal glimpse of the individual. Coming from a private family collection, the painting was acquired in China by an American missionary before 1945. A strikingly similar portrait of the Daoguang emperor seated in his study is in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

An anonymous portrait of a Royal Lady from the 19th century achieved $269,000, more than double its estimate. Although her identity is unknown, the regal sitter is depicted with exceptional detail in her winter robes, trimmed in otter fur. Her hat is further adorned with three gold filigree and kingfisher feather phoenix decorated with pearls, denoting her status as a princess or consort.

Modern and contemporary Chinese paintings also attracted animated bidding with works by Zhang Daqian and Liu Guosong demonstrating the market’s continued enthusiasm for modern Chinese ink painting. Zhang Daqian’s (1899-1983) self-portrait, “Return of My Sight” from 1964 surpassed its estimate to realize $365,000. The painting was a gift from the artist to his ophthalmologist as a sign of gratitude following successful treatment. Liu Guosong’s (Born 1932) “Which is Earth? No.96” from the artist’s 1970-1971 series, inspired by the moon landing, doubled its estimate to reach $125,000.

Hundreds of bidders on four continents participated in the auction, with interest concentrated in East Asia – particularly China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Intent telephone bidders, determined attendees and those bidding live online all managed to bring home at least one of the top 10 lots.

Additional highlights in the sale included a reverse painted mirror from the late 18th century sold for $87,000; a late Qing/Republic period zitan mounted cinnabar lacquer table screen that fetched $62,500; and an impressive gilt copper melon-form box and cover with a Qianlong mark that reached $55,000.

“We were thrilled that so many of the lots in the sale received strong, competitive bids, and overall we were very pleased with another great Asia Week sale in our New York salesroom,” said Bruce MacLaren, Bonhams Chinese Art Specialist.

Bonhams next Chinese sale in New York will take place in September 2014.

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