New auction house Art Europe has issued the catalogue for ONE Art Europe’s Preview Sale on December 13. Auction and viewing is in Amsterdam (Loods 6, KNSM-Laan 143) and catalogue online at www.arteurope auctions.com. The first offerings are something of a pot pourri but we have noted some interesting Asian lots. Specifically, a relatively early ancestor portrait of a high official and an unusual and attractive late 20th century oil painting.
Lot 184 China, Ming dynasty late 16th Century
Ink and colour on silk 159.5 by 90.7 cm.
Provenance Private Collection, United Kingdom.
Depicting an official adorned with a winged black hat and long flowing red robes, decorated with the gold rank badge, and a green inlaid belt, seated on a chair decorated with a geometric pattern, framed.
There is an interesting background text to the catalogue entry, ‘Chinese ancestor portraits came into vogue during the late-Ming (1368-1644) dynasty. In Imperial China, it was a sacred family duty to care for the spirits of deceased ancestors. Food offerings were commonly placed before commemorative portraits commonly referred to as “ancestor paintings.” These were painted specifically for use in ancestor worship and it was believed the power of the living person resided in their portrait after death. Ancestor portraits almost always depicted their subjects in a nearly live-size frontal pose, most often seated in some sort of throne with a lavish carpet at their feet. Typically, they would be wearing semiformal gowns with insignia that proclaimed their rank or status.
‘All ancestors were painted with virtually the same expression- a symbolically somber and detached look- to suggest some sort of objective, otherworldly status. It has been argued that great care needed to be taken when depicting the face since the Chinese believed that capturing the likeness was crucial for the portrait to be able to function as a ritual object. If the portrait did not capture the likeness, it was said that all future prayers would go to someone else’s ancestor, a tragedy at best. Before the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, ancestor paintings were rarely available for purchase or exhibited publicly. Today, they are recognized as a significant and unique Chinese art form, appreciated by audiences far greater than any ancestor might ever have imagined.’
Our eye was also caught by Lot 129, an artwork of an artwork, so to speak. It is an interesting oil painting by Liu Zhaowu (born 1973) of a typical piece of Socialist realism derivative of the Soviet influence on sculpture and other art forms which persisted until the Peking Spring of 1989. Statues like this, with rather more finely worked detail, were common during the Maoist era when artists were shipped off to hone their craft on revolutionary lines in the Soviet Union. This painting entitled From the series Heroes, No. 4, very effectively captures the political and spiritual energy of the time. It is estimated at Euros 5,000-7,000.