David Chipp (1927-2008) was the first Western journalist in Communist China where he worked as a Reuters correspondent from 1956-60. He recalls his faux pas in his posthumously published memoirs Mao’s Toe.
He adds that the leader of the People’s Republic was amused by the incident.
The memoirs also record his translator’s tip to buy paintings by Qi Baishi in the year the artist died (1864-1957).
Bees and Chrysanthemums will go under the hammer at the auction house’s Asian Art sale on May 15 where it is estimated at £20,000-30,000.
“This painting is not only an important work in its own right but it also bears testament to Anglo-Sino relations at a time when few Westerners were allowed to visit, let alone live in, China,” said Lazarus Halstead, specialist at Chiswick.