Lacquer painting fetches over $400,000 at French auction

By Hieu Nhan   November 29, 2022 | 03:00 pm PT
‘La famille de bergers’, a lacquer work of famous painter Nguyen Khang was sold for 390,000 euros ($404,000) by auction house Aguttes in France.

The 61x183 centimeter painting is part of Aguttes’ sale of "Major Works of Asian Painters". After three minutes and 15 bids, it was sold for $404,000 (tax not included).

"La famille de bergers" (The Family of Shepherds) was painted on three panels with Nguyen Khang’s signature and date at the bottom right corner. It depicts five horses in a reed field, one man carrying baskets and two sitting next to a horse.

La famille de bergers by Nguyen Khang. Photo courtesy of Aguttes

'La famille de bergers' by Nguyen Khang. Photo courtesy of Aguttes

"They symbolize, in the Vietnamese culture and more widely Asian culture, prosperity, success and development. In this scene, they snort, drink and contribute amply to the impression of happiness and serenity that emanates from the composition. It is a moment of tranquility which is illustrated here, the characters displaying expressions both joy and relaxation," Aguttes wrote.

Aside from traditional lacquer techniques, Nguyen Khang crushed the gold into powder and sprinkled it with engraved decorations, sanded down in several layers. The gold also enhanced the movement of the water and the fish, contrasting with the shades of orange-red and silver on the black and shiny background.

According to Aguttes, Nguyen Khang painted "La famille de bergers" in 1986, three years before he died. It was considered at that time the pinnacle of his painting technique.

Nguyen Khang (1912-1989) is a lacquer painter from Hanoi. He graduated from Hanoi School of Fine Arts, along with his fellow painters Tran Van Can and Nguyen Gia Tri. Nguyen Khang contributed to the use of lacquer in Vietnamese modern art in the 20th century. Some of his works were displayed at the Vietnam Museum of Fine Arts and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum. Although a renowned artist, very few of his works are available for auction.

"Major Works of Asian Painters" presented 34 works across the 20th and 21st century. Of which, the ink and color on silk "Jeune femme arrangeant des fleurs de lotus" (A woman arranging lotus) by painter Mai Trung Thu has the highest value at 400,000 euros ($415,000).

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