Chinese Painting ‘Wash Elephant’ Hammered Down for RMB 10m at Poly Xiamen

Boosted by its strong performance in Important Chinese Works of Art Sale, Poly Xiamen extended its heated bidding atmosphere to the sale of Chinese painting and calligraphy. The colour red was everywhere in the saleroom, where the auctioneer was wearing an eye-catching blazer of crimson red while just around the corner, piles of red scarf were offered for people in the room to put on. It echoed the leading lot of the sale, Ding Yunpeng’s ‘Wash Elephant’ that depicts a scene of several boys with red cloth on their shoulder washing an elephant. The painting was hammered down for RMB 10m and became the winning lot of the sale.

The auctioneer with an eye-catching blazer of crimson red

Piles of red scarf offered in the saleroom

Best known for his Buddhist paintings, Ding Yunpeng was a renowned Chinese painter in the Ming Dynasty. The word ‘elephant’ in Chinese is a homophone of ‘illusion’ and ‘image’. Therefore, the scene ‘washing elephant’ depicted in the painting carries a connotation of sweeping off illusions of the secular world.  

Estimated at RMB 6m - 8m, the painting was offered for an opening bid of RMB 5m. The price went steadily up with an increment of RMB 500,000 each bid. When the price reached RMB 9.5m, staying in the bidding battle were two bidders in the room, on both left and right sides at the back of the room. The one on the left hesitated as the following bid would set the price up to RMB 10m.

After about a minute, the bidder on the left raised his paddle and offered RMB 10m, scaring off the other bidder. The painting was sold for RMB 11.5m with buyer’s premium at the end, followed by a round of applause in the room.


Top five lots

Wash Elephant. Ding Yunpeng (1547-1628).
Hanging scroll; ink and colour on paper.

Lot no.: 965
Size: 126 x 49 cm

  • Sotheby’s New York, 3 June 1986, Lot 28

Estimate: RMB 6,000,000 - 8,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 10,000,000
Price realized: RMB 11,500,000

Waterfall. Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010).
Mounted; ink and colour on paper.

Lot no.L 954
Size: 69 x 137.5 cm
Created: 1992
Estimate: RMB 6,500,000 - 8,500,000
Hammer price: RMB 6,500,000
Price realized: RMB 7,475,000

Xiangui Studio. Shen Zhou (1427-1509).
Handscroll; ink and colour on paper.

Lot no.: 963
Size: 34 x 135 cm
Estimate: RMB 4,800,000 - 5,800,000
Hammer price: RMB 4,800,000
Price realized: RMB 5,520,000

Calligraphy in Official Script. Yi Bingshou (1754-1815).
With framed; ink on paper.

Lot no.: 957
Size: 31 × 124.5 cm
Estimate: RMB 1,000,000 - 2,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 4,000,000
Price realized: RMB 4,600,000

Landscape. Gong Xian (1618-1689).  
Hanging scoll; ink on silk.

Lot no.: 964
Size: 280 × 82.5 cm

  • Collection of Wu Zhaonan

Estimate: RMB 4,000,000 - 6,000,000
Hammer price: RMB 4,000,000
Price realized: RMB 4,600,000

Auction details

Auction house: Poly Xiamen
Sale: Important Chinese Painting and Calligraphy
Auction date: 2018/1/8
Lot offered: 35