Vietnamese painting sold for over a million dollars at Sotheby’s auction

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HÀ NỘI — A million-dollar oil on canvas painting by late Vietnamese painter Mai Trung Thứ (1906-1980) has been sold for top price at an auction in Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

The painting entitled Femme au chapeau conique le long de la rivière (The Woman Wearing Conical Hat by the River) was sold for HK$12,275,000 (US$1.57 million) at the auction Mapping Modernities for the famous international art broker on Tuesday.

Femme au chapeau conique le long de la rivière (The Woman Wearing Conical Hat by the River) by Mai Trung Thứ was sold for US$1.57 million at an art auction in Hong Kong. — Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

The painting was expected to reach A price between HK$5 million and HK$7 million.

The painting is dated 1937, the artist’s last year in Việt Nam, when he left the country in July to go to France where he lived for the rest of his life.

According to Sotheby’s, the painting portraits a woman “standing by a river during midday, her green áodài tunic resplendent in the sunlight as if she was a figure carved from jade. Her face cultivates mystery, shaded by a nón lá hat. In the background clouds gather above the river where two boats are sailing.”

“The tranquility of the scene induced by the colour harmony and the sweet expression of the woman is counterbalanced by the tension of the hat’s strap she pinches as the breeze animates the flap of the tunic.”

This is the second artwork by Mai Trung Thứ reaching the million-dollar price.

Earlier, in April, his painting Portrait de Mademoiselle Phương (Portrait of Mademoiselle Phương) created in 1930 was sold for a record price of US$3.1 million at the auction Beyond Legends: Modern Art Evening Sale of Sotheby’s Hong Kong, setting the world auction record for a Vietnamese artwork.

As one of the first artists to graduate from the first course of the Fine Arts College of Indochina, or Ecole des Beaux-Art de l’Indochine, in Hà Nội, he is one of the four most renowned Vietnamese artists, based in France, together with Lê Phổ, Vũ Cao Đàm and Lê Lưu.

Mélodie (Melody) by Mai Trung Thứ. — Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

On its website, Sotheby’s wrote: “The Ecole des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine attributed great significance to the development of East Asian artistic techniques, while at the same time incorporated European media and practices into the curricula. Thus, amongst Mai Trung Thứ’s earliest paintings appear some remarkable works of oil on canvas. They are the rarest paintings in his body of work, with only seven recorded by the artist to have appeared at auctions.”

Also in the Sotheby’s auction on Tuesday, other paintings by Mai Trung Thứ, from his early days in the 1930s to the end of his life in the 1970s, were sold. They include Mélodie (Melody, sold at US$517,000), Jeune femme couchée (The Lying Woman, sold at US$250,000), and Nature morte (Still Life, sold at US$145,000). — VNS

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