ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
RARE AND IMPORTANT WORKS FROM THE CHI FAMILY COLLECTION (LOTS 1376-1381)The collection of Mr. Chi is the result of a lifetime’s dedication to connoisseurship and beauty. For more than half a century, Mr. Chi built an exceptional assemblage of Chinese paintings, and is celebrated as a man whose taste led others to recognize the importance of Chinese culture and history. Mr. Chi’s enthusiasm for Chinese culture encompassed Chinese paintings and Classical Calligraphy, epitomizing the scholar gentleman traditions of connoisseurship.Graduating from University of Shanghai, Mr. Chi worked in the financial sector in China in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and held a position as General Manager of Standard Chartered Bank in Harbin. He later moved to Shanghai in 1940s and started his own business, Yongfengde Hao, a pioneer of foreign trading. Lots 1378-1381 were created by calligraphers in celebration of Chi’s grand opening of Yongfengde Hao. These gifts by such prominent calligraphers of the time is indicative of Mr. Chi’s close ties to the political and cultural world, and a reflection of his social status. Despite being occupied with running his business, Mr. Chi had a deep appreciation and taste for Chinese art, and purchased works by Zhang Daqian in the 1940’s. In Chinese New Year of 1949, the Chi family took a family portrait in Shanghai with Guanyin After Early Tang Style (Lot 1376) hung on the wall of their mansion, symbolic of its importance within Mr. Chi’s collection. After 1949, the family immigrated to Taiwan, and later to the United States. The two Zhang Daqian paintings and four calligraphic works also traveled with them on their journey, passed down by descent, and has been treasured by the family to this day.According to Chi family’s recollection, the two works by Zhang Daqian were purchased from an exhibition in Shanghai. According to Zhang Daqian’s biography, Zhang held exhibitions at Chengdu Road, Shanghai, during May 1947 and May 1948, and it is very likely the present two paintings were acquired during these particular shows.On 12th November 1967, the National Museum of History in Taipei held a special exhibition of art and cultural relics of Dunhuang (Bulletin of the National Museum of History has the exhibition list, which includes the Dunhuang exhibition1) and these two works were loaned especially to the museum for the exhibition for which the National Museum of History wrote a letter of gratitude to Mr. Chi and this has been kept in the family to this day.Mr Chi’s tremendous journey in collecting, witnessed in this present Collection, continues to be worthy of celebrating - such was his passion for the paintings he collected, the family lived with the art fully appreciating its beauty and importance. Guanyin After Early Tang Style and Horse After Northern Wei Style have been with the family for over 60 years, with the former hung in the sitting room of the collector’s house and the latter displayed in the his daughter’s bedroom.
ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)

Guanyin After Early Tang Style

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Guanyin After Early Tang Style
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on silk
142 x 72.5 cm. (55 7/8 x 28 ½ in.)
Entitled, inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated nineteenth day of second month, dinghai year (1947)
Purchased by the original owner through Zhang Daqian’s exhibitions in Shanghai in 1940’s, and passed down by descent.
Taipei, National Museum of History, Special Exhibition of Art and Cultural Relics of Dunhuang, 12 November, 1967.

Zhang Daqian embarked on an expedition to Dunhaung in 1941 to study the magnificent Buddhist murals. The expedition proved to be a creative breakthrough for Zhang – when he returned in 1943, he developed a new style and reached the zenith of his mastery for figure paintings. Learning from the ancient murals in Dunhuang, Zhang paid special attention to the use of brush, colour, costume, and the rendering of the human body.
Guanyin After Early Tang Style was based on Bodhisattva Holding Plate (figure), located in Dunhuang Mogao Cave 401 which was built in the Sui Dynasty. At the bottom part of the cave are various depictions of bodhisattvas in differing poses. Guanyin After Early Tang Style was based on the easternmost bodhisattva on the northern wall, a representative mural from the early Tang Dynasty. Though mimicking the composition of the Tang mural, Zhang Daqian, in contrast, uses relatively soft and beautiful colours.
In the painting, he depicts the bodhisattva’s slender figure adorned with a crown inaid with firing pearls, long celestial robes gently draping over her feet, her right hand supporting a basin lined with lazurite beads, gently holding a gauze banner in her left with her feet turned out standing on blue lotuses. The bodhisattva is overtly decorated, adorned with beaded necklace and earrings, with scarves draped around shoulders to accompany flowing robes.
Zhang Daqian’s use of fine lines further extenuates the bodhisattva’s slim waist, elegant fingers, and even the dignified pose. Furthermore, his dexterity in executing textures differently and beautifully is fully evident in the transparency of the glass in the basin to the ephemeral silk drapes, resulting in a majestic, noble painting of the very finest quality in Zhang’s gongbi portraits.
Further details
In portraits, the most important thing is the spirit. Whereas form and attitude indicate the body, the spirit reveals the inner self. According to the traditional technique of Chinese portrait painting, the registering of emotion on the face should be subtle and reserved so that it may inspire sympathy in the heart of the beholder.
Zhang Daqian

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