Enfant à l'oiseau (Child with Bird)

Enfant à l'oiseau (Child with Bird)
signed and inscribed in Chinese (upper right)
ink and gouache on silk in the original Gadin frame
65 x 50 cm. (25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in.)
Painted 1931
one seal of the artist
Acquired directly from the artist by the former owner
Thence by descent to the present owner
Private Collection, France
Revue L’Illustration, No. 4683, 1932 (illustrated, unpaged)
Paris, France, AGINDO, Exposition de l’Ecole de beaux-arts de Hanoï et des écoles d’artisanat de l’Indochine, 1932

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Lot Essay

When Jean Tardieu, (the son of the visionary Victor Tardieu) received a request to write an article for the special Christmas issue in 1932 of "L'Illustration" (which was the most famous French magazine of that time), he decided to present 4 paintings of Nguyen Phan Chanh. All of them had been sent to France in 1931 to promote the new field of Vietnamese pictorial art. The collection included: "La Sorcière", "La Jeune Fille Lavant des Légumes", the one he erroneously titled "Les ébats des enfants" and the current lot presented here L' Enfant à l'oiseau". Victor Tardieu understood that if he wanted his pupils to be publicly recognized, he knew that the strong institutional decisive impulse by the creation of Fine Art School of Indochina in Hanoi in 1924 was not enough, and he also needed to create a strong relationship with the true connoisseurs. Many exhibitions were organized within the School of Fine Art, along with the encouragement of diverse institutions to bring together artists and art lovers. This is how Christie's had the honour, to propose many works from the Tholance-Lorenzi's collection, a former Upper Resident of Tonkin up to 1937, when they had to return to France.

A very moving note appears on the back of the work, a handwritten one by Victor Tardieu himself and sent to the present owner's grandfather. It informs us on the importance for him of the purchase: "(…) pupils over there, I can't tell you how much honor your interest to their attempt means to them, so much that I can myself feel the real price of this. (…) please be ensured, dear Doctor, of my gratitude." Victor Tardieu

Forever faithful to the quintessence of his work - aiming to glorify the eternal Vietnam where the daily simplicity is the equivalent of eternal wisdom - the painter shows us a child whose face remains unknown as the real subject of the picture is the bird in its cage of wicker which the child seems to feed or to titillate through the bars.

The masses of black ink (legs, thighs and headgear) compose this triangle which builds Nguyen Phan Chanh's works. The gouache in these brown tones so characteristic of the author comes to complete the masterpiece of the artist. The scene set inside which is so rare in the artist's early works expresses a melancholy embodied by the songbird not as just a bird but also a prisoner.

Kept in the same family since its purchase in Agindo, (Economic Agency of Indochina in Paris), with its Gadin original frame (by the Parisian picture framer) and its Japanese style lacquer, L'Enfant à l'oiseau (Lot 315)whom many thought and considered as lost is a rediscovery that Christie's is proud and honoured to present - bringing yet another building block to the construction of the art history of Vietnam.

Jean-François Hubert
Senior Expert, Vietnamese Art

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