Sotheby’s Fine Classical Chinese Paintings 2020 Autumn Auction successfully came to an end on October 8th, 2020. The sale was led by two masterpieces formerly in the Qing Imperial Collection, namely Ren Renfa’s Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback and Huang Yue; Zhao Bingchong’s Landscapes after Si Kongtu. The exquisite handscroll painting Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback demonstrates Ren’s delightful use of colour and lively yet concise brushstrokes. Another highlightLandscapes after Si Kongtu was a compilation of distinguished calligraphy works and paintings by Qing masters Huang Yue and Zhao Bingchong.
As a result, Sotheby’s autumn auction has received an unprecedented achievement. A 75-minute bidding battle broke out as collectors competed to acquire Ren Renfa’s Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback, a late 13th / early 14th scroll from the Yuan dynasty. Over 100 bids were received, pushing the final sale price to HK$306,551,000, well beyond the pre-high estimate of HK$120,000,000 – a sum that establishes the scroll as the most valuable work sold at auction in Asia in 2020, and the most valuable Chinese ink painting sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong. In fact, Ren’s masterpiece was already highly prized by the time of the Ming dynasty, encapsulated in the words of literarti painter Zhang Ning (1426-1496): “Black, Yellow, Red, White, and Mottled Horses. Every horse is worth a thousand taels of gold.”