Hanoi (VNA) – An oil painting on canvas entitled Portrait de Mademoiselle Phuong (Portrait of Mademoiselle Phuong) by late painter Mai Trung Thu has sold at an auction for the highest price paid for Vietnamese art .
Offered in the auction Beyond Legends: Modern Art Evening Sale of Sotheby’s Hong Kong, the painting was sold for a record price of 3.1 million USD on April 18.
With a guide price of 500,000 USD, the price of the painting eventually reached 2.573 million USD. After taxes and fees were added, the price totalled 3.1 million USD.
This is more than double the previous highest valued auction sale which the painting Khoa Than (Nude) by Le Pho, which sold for 1.4 million USD.
Portrait of Mademoiselle Phuong was painted by Mai Trung Thu (1906-1980) in 1930, when he was an art teacher at Lycée Français de Hue (a French High School in Hue).
As one of the first artists who graduated from the first course of the Fine Arts College of Indochina, or Ecole des Beaux-Art de l’Indochine, in Hanoi he was classified as one of the four most renowned Vietnamese artists based in France, together with Le Pho, Vu Cao Dam and Le Luu.
His reputation was closely associated with silk paintings on the subjects of women, children and everyday life, showcasing typical Asian culture in the early 20th century. This painting, beautifully rendered in the oil medium, is exceptionally rare as the artist devoted himself to painting on silk for most of his career.
According to Sotheby’s description, “a monumental, yet remarkably tender and intimate, Mai Trung Thu’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Phuong stands as the most significant and largest painting by the artist to be offered at auction… Poignantly, the beguiling portrait also captures Mai Thu’s deep admiration of its sitter, a noble lady rumoured to be the artist’s love interest”.
The painting was first exhibited at the Fine Arts College of Indochina in 1930, before travelling to Paris to attend the prestigious 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition, announcing the painter’s entrance into the European art world.
“Mai Thu’s Portrait de Mademoiselle Phuong is one of the most significant and recognisable masterpieces in Vietnamese art history, often likened to Le Pho’s L’age heaureux (The Happy Age). Capturing the lyrical and romantic qualities typical of the early oil paintings of the École’s students, both works were well-received at the 1931 Exposition,” wrote Sotheby’s on its website.
Portrait of Mademoiselle Phuong was also featured in the iconic film The Scent of the Green Papaya, a Vietnamese-language film directed by Tran Anh Hung in France in 1993./.