DALLAS – A rare painting from the Song Dynasty (A.D. 960-1279) of polo players riding donkeys soared to $675,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ Fine & Decorative Asian Art Auction to $1,337,455 in sales Dec. 11. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The lot accounted for just over half of the total result from the auction and set a record for the highest price ever paid for any lot sold in Heritage’s Asian Art department. The previous record was Wu Changshuo Peony, Bottle Gourds and Loquats, Dingzi, 1917, four works of ink and color on paper that sold in March 2019 for $399,000.
Demand for the Chinese School, After Li Song (Song Dynasty) Riders on Donkeyback, Song Dynasty was driven by the fact that the sport is being played on donkeys instead of horses, which was rarely recorded in paintings. Donkey Polo, or Lvju in Chinese, is a new sport that Chinese nobles during the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty developed from horse polo. Donkeys are shorter than horses and have thicker coats and gentle character, leading to the belief among the Chinese Imperial Court and among the noble class that it is a safer sport than its traditional counterpart played on horses. This Chinese ink and color on silk scroll painting (above) bears the signature of Song Dynasty artist Li Song, along with multiple seals from Yuan and Qing Dynasty collectors, including Boyanbuhua (?-1367), Pan Zhengwei (1791-1850) and Wu Rongguang (1773-1843).
“During the year of 2020, Heritage’s Asian Art auctions have been consistently performing well, with Important Chinese paintings, fine silk embroidered textiles and period dynastic ceramic pieces, of course, being the strongest selling categories, and we have seen strong potential in many other growing segments,” said Moyun Niu, Heritage Auctions’ Asian art consignment director. “We are very confident that the Asian Art and antique market, especially in America, will continue to thrive and climb past its previous peak.”
Also extremely popular among serious collectors were three Chinese album leaves, by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Li Qiujun (1899-1973), Pan Junnuo (1906-1981), which climbed to nearly seven times the high estimate before finishing at $47,500. The collectors are willing to pay extra, since it is rare to see the famous lovers’ artworks show up in the market together. The leaves, the largest of which measures 9 by 12 inches, are signed and carry the seal of the artists.
A pair of Chinese painted and gilded pottery lokapala, Tang Dynasty drew a winning bid of $31,250. The figures, each standing straight up on a shaped base and with fierce facial expressions and bent arms. They are cloaked in elaborately decorated armor with dragon motifs under long robes, the armors and robes picked out in orange and green pigment, and the armors richly gilded.
A Chinese carved limestone seated figure of Maitreya Buddha, Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang, Henan Province, Northern Wei Dynasty sold for $27,500. Originally part of a wall fragment south of Luoyang, where it has been suggested that related examples would have stood in niches along the northern wall of the Guiyang cave, this figure was purchased from Mathias Komor, who was the leading dealer in Chinese art in New York in the postwar period and assisted in the formation of major institutional and private collections.
A Huang Binhong (1864-1955) landscape sparked multiple bids before it closed at $16,250. As grand in size as it is in beauty, this ink and color on paper, with one red seal, stands 51 inches high, 66 when included in its complete scroll.
Other top lots included:
– A Chinese Blue and White Lotus Vase, Tianqiuping, Qing Dynasty, 18th century, sold for $13,750;
– A Chinese ceramic Daoist immortal figure on hardwood stand, Ming Dynasty, sold for $13,750;
– Chinese School (18th-19th century) Procession of Wang Zhaojun, sold for $12,500;
– Attributed to Wang Hui eight landscape paintings, Qing Dynasty, late 17th-early 18th century, sold for $12,500;
– A Chinese red ground embroidered silk dragon robe sold for $12,500.
View top auction results on LiveAuctioneers here: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/