Royalty-owned Ha Long Bay sunset lacquer screen fetches $1.25 million

By Dang Khoa   November 28, 2021 | 03:43 am PT
Pham Hau’s six panel lacquer screen titled Golden Sunset Over Ha Long Bay, once owned by Vietnam’s last king, has gone under a Hong Kong hammer for around $1.25 million.

The work, called ‘Hoang Hon Vang Tren Vinh Ha Long’ in Vietnamese, once belonged to King Bao Dai (1913 - 1997).

It was auctioned at a "Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art" sale by Bonhams, the international auction house.

It was the very first time that a documented painting from the king’s personal collection was offered at an auction.

The painting, never seen in public since it was created, is a six-panelled lacquer screen with dimensions of 100 x 195.8 centimeters. It depicts the landscape of Ha Long Bay, the UNESCO world heritage site in northeast Vietnam.

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

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

Bernadette Rankine, Bonhams Southeast Asia Director, commented: "This exquisite lacquer screen by Pham Hau is a significant discovery, not only for its royal provenance but also for its unique composition, supreme workmanship and rarity. It is a true masterpiece, and we are particularly proud that it has set a new world record for a work by Pham Hau."

The painting was given to Pulitzer Prize-winning American Journalist Edgar Ansel Mowrer (1892-1977) in 1951, when he visited 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.

Hau (1903 - 1995) has created a wide 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", an auction house statement said.

In June, Hau's lacquer painting 'Thac Bo' (Landscapes with Junks) attracted a €833,000 $1 million winning bid for French auction house Aguttes.

Beside Pham Hau, 'Choi Dan Nguyet' (Lady Playing a Nguyet Cam) by Mai Trung Thu (1906-1980) and 'Les Bleuets' by Le Pho (1907-2001) were sold for over HK$7.8 million (over $1 million) and HK$940,000 (over $120,000), respectively.

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