Ren Renfa's 'Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback' soars to US$40 Million

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Ren Renfa's 'Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback' soars to US$40 Million
Over 100 bids were received, pushing the final sale price to HK$306,551,000 / US$39,555,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Yesterday at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, a 75-minute bidding battle broke out as collectors competed to acquire Ren Renfa’s Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback, a late 13th / early 14th scroll from the Yuan dynasty. Over 100 bids were received, pushing the final sale price to HK$306,551,000 / US$39,555,000, well beyond the pre-high estimate of HK$120,000,000 / US$15,484,000 – a sum that establishes the scroll as the most valuable work sold at auction in Asia in 2020, and the most valuable Chinese ink painting sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong. This historic moment stands as the longest bidding war in living memory. Ren’s masterpiece was already highly prized by the time of the Ming dynasty, encapsulated in the words of literarti painter Zhang Ning (1426-1496): “Black, Yellow, Red, White, and Mottled Horses. Every horse is worth a thousand taels of gold.”

Nicolas Chow, Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia, International Head and Chairman, Chinese Works of Art, said, “What better home for this masterpiece of Chinese painting, than the Long Museum in Shanghai - whose collection of ancient Chinese Art is among the best in the world.”

Steven Zuo, Head of Fine Classical Chinese Paintings, Sotheby’s Asia, commented, “When I first unrolled this highly important and exquisite scroll by Ren Renfa, I knew that bringing this masterpiece to auction was set to be one of the most exciting moments of my career at Sotheby’s. Today the market spoke, and the extraordinary price achieved for an artwork that marries impeccable provenance with painterly brilliance, rarity with exceptional condition, is thoroughly deserved. Its rapturous reception at our pre-sale exhibition was a harbinger for the flurry of bids we received today, which elevated it to a final price that stands as the most valuable Chinese ink painting we have ever sold.”


• Huang Yue (1750-1841); Zhao Bingchong (1757-1814), Landscapes after Si Kongtu. Sold for HK$20,745,000 / US$2,676,800. Estimate: HK$5,000,000 - 8,000,000 / US$650,000 - 1,040,000

• Bada Shanren (1626-1705), Lotus. Sold for HK$11,307,000 / US$1,459,000. Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 / US$259,000 - 388,000

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