ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
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ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)

Lady of the Tang Dynasty

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Lady of the Tang Dynasty
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
81.5 x 45 cm. (32 1/8 x 17 ¾ in.)
Inscribed and signed, with three seals of the artist
Dated twelfth month, xinmao year (1951)
Dedicated to Yu’an
Further inscribed and signed by Zeng Keduan (1900-1975), with two seals
Dated seventh day of the first month, renchen year (1952)
Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Paintings, 26 April 2004, Lot 662.
Hanmo Ladies by Zhang Daqian, Han Mo Xuan Co. Ltd., June 1994, pp. 50-52.
Zhu Jieying ed., Beautiful Draft: Zhang Daqians Gentlewomen Painting, Beijing Normal University Publishing House, June 2008, p. 84, pl. 2-54.

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Lot Essay

The recipient of this painting was Li Wei (1903-1975), also known as Xu’an, who was a native of Hefei, Anhui. After 1949, Li moved to Hong Kong and taught at the Hong Kong Academy of Arts and Business. He was friends of Zhang Daqian, Zeng Keduan, Rao Zongyi and Hu Huichun.
Dated the end of 1951, this painting was created at the time when Zhang Daqian has just left China, and was bouncing between Hong Kong, India, and Taiwan while preparing for his journey to South America. A few months after acquiring this work, the original recipient requested Zeng Keduan, a close friend of Zhang Daoqian’s, to inscribe a poem steeped in Buddhist philosophy which echoed the context of the subject matter. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that this painting was commissioned by the original recipient and not a casual gift from the artist.
After his immersive study of the cave murals at Dunhuang, Zhang Daqian remained at the zenith of his fine-line figure painting during the 1950s. In this work, his depiction of the lady’s posture, clothing, color palette, among other artistic choices, all hark back to the figures featured in the Dunhuang murals. Zhang Daqian seemingly captures an instantaneous moment as she moves toward the viewer and raises her right hand—a dynamic scene which is rare in his renditions of female figures. The elegantly dressed lady, with an exotic flowering plant standing by her feet, serves as a fine example of the ubiquitous, pious donors shown in the Dunhuang Buddhist murals. Most of the mural donors were wealthy aristocrats who, unlike the Buddhist deities in the same compositions, were portrayed in a more secular manner: coiffed and bejeweled, in delicate makeup and exquisite clothing. In this painting, the vibrant colors of azurite, malachite, and cinnabar are layered heavily to convey the richness of the fabric and embroidery. Zhang Daqian’s attention to detail can be observed throughout, making it an exceptional painting among his female figures of the 1950s.

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