‘Matisse of the East’ cache of art emerges at Freeman’s Oct. 18

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PHILADELPHIA — Nine works by Ding Yanyong (1902-1978), painted in the last years of his life for an American student, will be presented at Freeman’s auction of Asian Arts on Wednesday, October 18. The cache of ink and color on paper scrolls were given by the artist to the owner while she studied in Hong Kong in 1976. Estimates range from $1,500-$2,000 to $30,000-$50,000, with bidding available via LiveAuctioneers.

Ding Yanyong, the Chinese painter dubbed ‘the Matisse of the East’ for his blending of Eastern and Western styles, moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and remained there until his death in 1978. The consignor of these nine paintings was introduced to Ding by a friend and became one of his first western pupils. Ding gave her the Chinese sobriquet Meilan Nvdi (Beautiful Orchid), and this name appears as part of the dedication on several of the works up for sale.

The subject of the Eight Immortals is one the artist revisited in various compositions in the 1970s. The largest scroll in the group, at 4ft 6in by 2ft 3in, depicts them gathered together alongside the sealed inscription Meilan Nvdi and a bingchen year, equivalent to 1976. It has an estimate of $30,000-$50,000.

Also dated to 1976 is a 2ft 1in by 19in black ink sketch of an eagle together with a personal inscription and an estimate of $3,000-$5,000, while carrying an estimate of $5,000-$7,000 is a 2ft 3in by 18in colored scene depicting the main protagonists from the famous tale ‘Journey to the West’ – doubtless chosen by the artist as a suitable subject for his American student.

Earning the sale’s highest estimate, at $30,000-$50,000, is a pair of Qing dynasty continuous yoke-back armchairs made in the reverse hardwood huanghuali. One of the three main types of Chinese armchairs produced during the classic period, these are also colloquially known as a ‘Southern official’s hat’ chair or nanguanmaoyi. This pair were bought to the U.S. in 1937, on the eve of the second Japanese invasion of China, by a family who had settled in Shanghai five years earlier. While in China, they had acquired many pieces of traditional Chinese furniture.
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Ding Yanyong, ‘The Eight Immortals Gathering,’ estimated at $30,000-$50,000 at Freeman’s.
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Ding Yanyong, ‘Journey to the West,’ estimated at $5,000-$7,000 at Freeman’s.
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Ding Yanyong, ‘Eagle,’ estimated at $3,000-$5,000 at Freeman’s.
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Pair of Chinese Qing dynasty huanghuali continuous yoke-back armchairs (nanguanmaoyi), estimated at $30,000-$50,000 at Freeman’s.
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Chinese Kangxi period ‘Langyao’ copper red-glazed baluster vase, estimated at $8,000-$12,000 at Freeman’s.
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Japanese export silver four-piece dragon tea and coffee service with tray, estimated at $10,000-$15,000 at Freeman’s.
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