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Canards mandarins et lotus (Mandarin Ducks and Lotus) by Lê Phổ was sold for 1.2 million euros (US$1.28 million), becoming the most expensive piece of the auction Magnificence and Regality by Sotheby’s Paris on November 7. — Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

The Canards mandarins et lotus (Mandarin Ducks and Lotus) was sold during the auction that offered pieces from the personal collection of Vietnamese Prince Nguyễn Phúc Bửu Lộc (1914-1990) – a scholar and collector who befriended the artists he admired and lived surrounded by art. The ink-and-gouache-on-silk painting earlier was evaluated to gain the price between 300,000-500,000 euros ($320,000-534,000).

Executed circa late 1930s, the silk masterpiece was painted during the pinnacle of Lê Phổ’s career. The 175cm by 69.5cm painting highlights the artist’s strong affinity to Chinese culture and aesthetics that have historically influenced Vietnamese culture for many years.

Mandarin Ducks and Lotus features a pair of mandarin ducks swimming around the lotus from an aerial perspective. The lotus flower is an important symbol in Vietnamese culture, signifying purity, serenity and optimism, as well as purity of body, mind and spirit, in Buddhist literature.

“Lê Phổ delineates the forms with soft, impressionistic brushstrokes, a style that he developed as he studied and admired the works of Post-impressionists such as Pierre Bonnard. The painting is tinged with a sense of nostalgia and romance as the artist employs a sepia palette for the background. Though the artist uses opaque pigments to paint his subjects, the delicacy of the smooth silk surface enhances the lightness of his strokes, creating an ephemeral quality to the composition. The present lot radiates a mesmerizing sense of tranquillity owing to the artist’s harmonious use of colours, gentle touch and superior brushwork,” the auction house describes the painting.

Femme assise (Repose) by Nguyễn Tường Lân was sold for 444,500 euros ($475,000) – the second most expensive piece at the auction Magnificence and Regality by Sotheby’s Paris on November 7. — Photo courtesy by Sotheby's

The Magnificence and Regality auction also offered other works by famous Vietnamese painters.

The painting Femme assise (Repose, c.1930-40) – the only work by Nguyễn Tường Lân available at the auction, was sold for 444,500 euros ($475,000) – the second most expensive of the auction.

Other works by Lê Phổ, Femme au voile (Lady with The Veil, c.1940s), L'heure du thé en famille (Family Teatime, c.1960s), and Mère et enfant avec iris (Mother and Daughter with Iris, c.1970s), were sold for 406,400 euros ($434,000), 279,400 euros ($298,000), and 203,200 euros ($217,000), respectively.

Artworks by Vũ Cao Đàm – one of the four most renowned Vietnamese artists based in France, together with Lê Phổ, Mai Trung Thứ and Lê Thị Lựu, also were available at the auction. His La Bataille de Coqs (Cockfight, c.1950-53) and Liliums (c.1940s) were sold for 393,700 euros ($420,000) and 190,500 euros ($203,000).

The nine-part lacquer panel Scène de marché dans un village (Market scene in a village, c.1950) by Trần Minh Thơ was sold for 228,600 euros ($244,000).

The auction offered works created between around 1935 and 1970 in various forms, including delicately painted silk masterpieces, magnificent lacquer screens and exceptional examples of Vietnamese modern art. — VNS

10 most expensive Vietnamese paintings sold in int’l auctions

Portrait de Mademoiselle Phuong (Portrait of Madame Phượng) by Mai Trung Thứ – $3.11m

La famille dans le jardin (The Family in the Garden) by Lê Phổ – $2.37m

Figures in a Garden by Lê Phổ – $2.29m

Femme au chapeau conique le long de la rivière (The Woman Wearing Conical Hat by the River) by Mai Trung Thứ – $1.57m

Les Couturières (Seamstresses at Work) by Nguyễn Phan Chánh – $1.39m

Nue (Nude) by Lê Phổ – $1.39m

Thé et Sympathie (Tea and Sympathy) by Lê Phổ – $1.36m

La Jeune Fille au Bouquet de Pivoines (Young Girl with a Bouquet of Peonies) by Lê Phổ – $1.36m

Paysage de Phnom Penh (Landscape of Phnom Penh) by Lê Quốc Lộc – $1.31mCanards mandarins et lotus (Mandarin ducks and lotus) by Lê Phổ – $1.28m