Christie’s announced it will auction modern Chinese-French painter Sanyu’s White Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardinière, completed between the 1940s and 1950s, in its Hong Kong contemporary evening sale on July 10. Painted in an unusual color scheme (there are only four known like it), the work carries an estimate of $7.8 million–$10 million.
Two of the other red-ground, white floral still life works by Sanyu are in the permanent collection of the National Museum of History in Taipei. Sanyu’s market has seen recent moves higher. In November 2019, Christie’s sold the painter’s Five Nudes for $38.8 million in a Hong Kong contemporary evening sale, establishing a new record.
“White Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardinière is one of the finest examples of Sanyu’s floral creations, exemplifying his innate ability to blend Chinese artistic traditions with Western modern aesthetics to create an ingenious work of art,” says Evelyn Lin, Deputy Chairman, International Director and Head of Department, Modern and Contemporary Art, Asia Pacific.
Dubbed the Chinese Matisse, Sanyu is one of the few Chinese artists from the 1920s School of Paris to rise to prominence. He is known principally for his studies of nude women and flora, and his calligraphic technique recalling Eastern aesthetic traditions. While Sanyu’s nudes have caught the attention of global collectors in recent seasons, his floral works are another coveted genre from the painter’s seminal career.
The last record for a Sanyu chrysanthemum painting was set in Christie’s Hong Kong The Pioneers sale in November 2016. It brought in $13.5 million, a staggering result over its original $2.5 million–$2.9 million estimate, making it the fourth-highest-selling work at auction by the artist to date. A staple in the Asian art market, Sanyu’s formative works have seen a steady incline in demand over the past two decades. In 2010, Christie’s sold another of his red-ground floral still lifes for $6.9 million.
Once in the collection of the Yageo Foundation, founded by Taiwanese collector and electronics mogul Pierre Chen, the work last came to market in 2005 when it sold at Christie’s for $994,766, almost doubling its presale high estimate of $540,074.