Vietnamese Mona Lisa to go under hammer

By Long Nguyen   May 20, 2021 | 03:45 am PT
Christie's Hong Kong will auction Vietnamese artist Mai Trung Thu's 'La Joconde (Mona Lisa)' painting next week.

The ink and gouache on silk painting, 53.5 x 37.5 centimeters, will go under the hammer on May 24 as part of Christie's "20th and 21st Century Art Evening Sale."

"La Joconde (Mona Lisa)" was painted in 1974, with a signature of the artist, "Mai Thu," in the lower right corner. It is estimated to cost around HKD2.5 - 3.5 million ($321,992 - 450,789).

"We can imagine Mai Thu discovering and visiting often the original Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre, from his stay in Paris in 1937 to 1974, the date of execution of his own painting," the auction house said.

La Joconde (Mona Lisa) by Mai Trung Thu. Photo courtesy of Christies.

"La Joconde (Mona Lisa)" by Mai Trung Thu. Photo courtesy of Christie's.

Comparing the two paintings, Vietnamese art expert Jean-François Hubert said the general position of the woman is the same, only her head and upper body are depicted.

"Her bust is turned to the right, her face is facing the front, and there is a slight twist between her head and shoulders. In Mai Thu’s representation the bust is smaller, the body thinner to respond to Vietnamese canons of beauty."

Last month, Thu's "Portrait of Mademoiselle Phuong" fetched the highest ever price for a Vietnamese painting of $3.1 million at Sotheby's Auction House in Hong Kong.

Thu was a famous modern painter in the early years of the 20th century. He lived and worked most of his life in France.

Associated with silk paintings of women, children and everyday life in Vietnam, he was named along with Vu Cao Dam, Le Thi Luu and Le Pho as the four most prominent artists of the golden age of Vietnamese modern art.

Another "La Joconde (Mona Lisa)" painting of Thu was sold by Sotheby's in 2010 for HKD137,500 ($17,709).

The "20th and 21st Century Art Evening Sale" auction will also include Le Pho's masterpiece "Young Lady Tying Her Scarf."

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