Later in life he was renowned as a modern Impressionist and Expressionist painter but he was originally known as a guohua (traditionalist) painter, producing many works like these prior to the 1960s.
Ironically, for an artist deemed one of the most gifted forgers of the 20th century, Zhang’s own work is today much-imitated so provenance is key.
These two leaves came to sale at Chiswick Auctions’ (25% buyer’s premium) Asian art sale on May 10 from the personal collection of the late Brian Morgan (1930- 2018), formerly a director of London Asian art-dealing powerhouse Bluetts.
Estimated at £10,000-15,000, the two, framed together, sold at £32,000 online.
Front cover star
That was the catalogue back cover lot to this lockdown sale. The object chosen for the front cover was a 15th century blue and white porcelain flask or kendi of a distinctive boat-shaped form, just over 8in (20cm) long.
These have long been referred to as ‘pilgrim’s flasks’ as they are thought to copy leather flasks carried along the Silk Road (there are distinct ‘seams’ running across the curved body).
However, the curious shape may, like many other Ming ceramics, be derived from Middle Eastern metalwork – specifically a kashkul or alms bowl – and would have been made specifically for the Islamic market. In this context, the crescent moon form would have had great symbolic appeal.
Sotheby’s has offered two similar flasks including that sold for £70,000 as part of an Arts of the Islamic World auction in 2011.
This unmarked example at Chiswick, decorated with bands of lotus petals and lappets and stylised waves crashing against a rock, was pitched at £30,000-50,000. It sold just a little below hopes at £26,000.