Zhang Daqian’s Spectacular Mountains in Spring Snow Tops Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings

Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings offered 280 exquisite paintings in Hong Kong, with two rare works making their auction debuts: Spectacular Mountains in Spring Snow by Zhang Daqian and Studio Amid Majestic Mountains by Huang Binhong.

Spectacular Mountains in Spring Snow, a prodigious six-foot long splashed ink-and-colour painting and calligraphy by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). This magnificent painting, a gift from the artist to his dear friend, Zhang Muhan, depicts an undulating mountain range with its peak dusted in snow.

The accompanying calligraphy refers directly to the close friendship between the two. The poem, written in beautiful script, describes the towns of Anhui and Sichuan, the birth places of Zhang Daqian and Zhang Muhan respectively.

The bidding started at HK$20m and steadily rose to HK50m with several bidders in the room expressing interest. Contestants were later narrowed down to a lady at the back of the room, and the telephone bidder represented by Kevin Ching (image above), CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, who joined in when the price moved up to HK$58m. The latter one emerged victorious in the prolonged bidding battle that lasted 10 minutes. The painting was hammered down for HK$72m and sold for HK$83m with premium, almost three times its estimate of HK$28m-40m.

Fu Baoshi’s Scholars Trekking in Snow Mountains, estimate upon request, was hammered down for HK$32m after receiving five bid increments. It sold for HK$37.85m with premium included.

The painting beautifully combines the artist’s eye for detail with his interest in history. Drawing inspiration and reference from the biography of Tang Dynasty poet, Han Yu, and in particular his journey to Chaoyang in a winter due to his demotion, the present work vividly portrays Han trekking through the narrow, winding mountain paths buried in snow and enveloped by withered trees and sharp rocks.

Huang Binhong’s Studio Amid Majestic Mountains is a spectacular scroll, commissioned by Peiyue for his father Mo Boji’s 70th birthday. The landscape is colossal in size and detailed in nature.

Thick with impasto and vibrant with powerful brush strokes, the painting features inscriptions of two poems, a reference to the family’s love of writing. Befitting of the celebratory nature of this commission, the paper used for the work was especially made during the 49th year of the Qianlong Emperor’s reign in honour of his birthday celebration. Estimated at HK$15m-20m, the painting was hammered down for HK$27m and sold to a gentleman at the front of the room for HK$32.2m with premium included.

A surprise at the sale was Su Manshu’s An Assemblage of Landscapes, twenty-two leaves of paintings. Su Manshu (1884-1919) was a Japanese-born Chinese painter. He became a Buddhist monk and adopted Su Manshu as his Buddhist name. There are not many extant works by Su Manshu, thus these twenty-two pieces with titleslip by Huang Binhong and annotations of Zhang Binglin and contemporaries serve as rare and important documents for anyone studying Su’s work.

The assemblage was hammered down for 24m, 133 times its low estimate HK$180,000. It sold for HK$28.8m to a bidder in the saleroom.

Top four lots

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Spectacular Mountains in Spring Snow; Calligraphy
Splashed ink and colour on paper; ink on paper

Lot no.: 1257
Created in: 1967
Size: 67.2 x 186.8 cm (painting); 67.5 x 185.5 cm (calligraphy)
Estimate: HK$28,000,000 – 40,000,000
Hammer price: HK$72,000,000
Price realized: HK$83,005,500

Fu Baoshi (1904-1965). Scholars Trekking in Snow Mountains
Ink and Colour on Paper, Hanging scroll

Lot no.: 1432
Created in: 1945
Size: 88.5 x 56.3 cm
Estimate Upon Request
Hammer price: HK$32,000,000
Price realized: HK$37,845,500

Huang Binhong (1864-1955). Studio Amid Majestic Mountains
Ink and Colour on Paper, hanging scroll

Lot no.: 1277
Created in: 1947
Size: 128.5 x 61 cm
Estimate: HK$15,000,000 – 20,000,000
Hammer price: HK$27,000,000
Price realized: HK$32,200,500

Su Manshu (1884-1918). Assemblage of Landscapes.
Ink on silk, album of fifteen leaves

Lot no.: 1259
Created in: 1903 - 1906
Various Sizes
Estimate: HK$180,000 - 250,000
Hammer price: HK$24,000,000
Price realized: HK$28,813,500


Auction summary:

Auction house: Sotheby’s Hong Kong
Sale: Fine Chinese Paintings
Sale date: 2/4/2018
Lots offered: 280
Sold: 239
Unsold: 41
Sold by lot: 85.4%
Sale total: HK$487,260,000