Last emperor lacquer to go under hammer

By Long Nguyen   November 9, 2021 | 05:00 am PT
‘Hoang Hon Vang Tren Vinh Ha Long’ (Golden Sunset Over Ha Long Bay) by painter Pham Hau will be auctioned by Hong Kong-based firm Bonhams on Nov. 27.

The work, used to belong to Bao Dai (1913 - 1997), Vietnam’s last emperor, will be presented at the "Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art" sale, with an estimate price from HK$2.8 - 3.8 million ($359,428 - 487,795).

‘Hoang Hon Vang Tren Vinh Ha Long’, which has never been seen in public since it was created, is a six-panelled lacquer screen, 100 x 195.8 centimeters, depicting the sublime landscape of Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Northeast Vietnam, the auction house stated.

‘Hoang Hon Vang Tren Vinh Ha Long’ (Golden Sunset over Halong Bay) by painter Pham Hau. Photo courtesy of Bonhams

‘Hoang Hon Vang Tren Vinh Ha Long’ by painter Pham Hau. Photo courtesy of Bonhams

"Despite a restrictive lacquer palette, Hau masterfully created various shades of gold, brown, vermillion, amber and red, demonstrating the limitless power of lacquer in depicting our colorful world."

The painting was given to Pulitzer Prize-winning American Journalist Edgar Ansel Mowrer (1892-1977) in 1951, when he paid a visit to Vietnam. His trip culminated in an appointment with Bao Dai in the Central Highlands Town of Da Lat.

It is known that Bao Dai had ordered paintings and screens from Pham Hau, both for his personal collection and as official gifts to statesmen and politicians. Mowrer brought the six-panel painting back to his family home in New Hampshire, where it was hung and admired for decades before passing down by descent to the present owner. The family has also kept a calling card from Bao Dai, which will be part of the lot on offer.

The upcoming auction will also include a painting from Mai Trung Thu.

Hau (1903 - 1995) created a range of famous works. He demonstrated a profound grasp of both eastern and western artistic principles and philosophies through his paintings, while his poetic landscape compositions "offer us a glimpse into the rich and complex Vietnamese culture", said the auction house.

In June, his lacquer painting ‘Thac Bo’ (Landscapes with Junks) was sold for €833,000 ($1 million) by French auction house Aguttes.

go to top