25 May 2009
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Monkeys and Peaches
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
104.8 x 34.5 cm. (41 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated eighth month, gengchen year (1940)
Qi Baishis pictures often hold a certain whimsical quality in their simple depiction of forms. In the present lot, Qi Baishi uses traditional Chinese imagery to create a painting complex in meaning while maintaining his distinct, impressionable directness, and his ability to convey the essence of forms and ideas.
In this instance, an extremely rare white-haired monkey stands under a peach tree holding the fruit in hand, while her baby shyly hides behind her. This lively image bears multiple symbolic meanings: the peach traditionally represents immortality and the monkey represents success in office. In Daoist mythology, Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West, was said to have presented a peach of immortality, which grows only once every 3,000 years, to Emperor Wu of Han.
The pronunciations of the word monkey and official are the same in Chinese; therefore it can be used as a pun to imply the success in office and the promotion of ranks. The white-haired monkey is a genetic mutation which happens once every hundred-thousandth birth and is considered to be an exceptionally auspicious symbol. While Qi Baishi rarely used monkeys as the subject of his paintings, the white-haired monkey is an even rarer example among his works, making the present lot an exceptional piece.
Contact Client Service
New York +1 212 636 2000
London +44 (0)20 7839 9060
Asia +852 2760 1766
Tel: +852 2521 5396
The Collected Works of Qi Baishi 5, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 1996, p. 96, pl. 91, appendix 12.
Art critic Alastair Sooke and Christie’s specialist Sophia Zhou discuss the life and times of this giant of Chinese culture
A special sale in Hong Kong that embarks on an artistic journey from Su Shi through a millennium of Chinese history
Specialist Elizabeth Hammer on why age-old themes, materials and techniques continue to flourish among artists and collectors
The Métiers d’Art collection is witty, eclectic and Chanel to the core. Illustrated with bags offered in Handbags and Accessories on 12 December in London
Looking back on a week of auctions that featured masterworks representing some of the greatest collections assembled in the United States