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Photograph: Dewi Nurjuwita

A lacquer painting from Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai's collection has been unveiled at Bonhams Singapore

The masterpiece from Vietnamese lacquer master Pham Hau is on show for three days only

Dewi Nurjuwita
Written by
Dewi Nurjuwita

Hạ Long Bay is one of Vietnam's greatest treasures, even designated a World Heritage Site in 1994. The landmark has been beautifully painted on a six-panelled lacquer screen by Vietnamese artist Pham Hau, now on display at Bonhams Singapore for three days only before it makes its way to Hong Kong for the Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art sale taking place on November 27.

The rare lacquer painting was recently discovered from the collection of the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai. Beautifully titled Golden Sunset over Halong Bay, it's a significant work of art that's emerging onto the market 70 years after it was granted by him as a personal gift in 1951 to Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Edgar Ansel Mowrer (1892-1977), who was best known for his writing on international events. It was gifted during the journalist's trip to Vietnam. Mowrer then brought the six-panel painting back to his family home in New Hampshire, where it was hung and admired for decades before passing down by descent to the present owner. 

Pham Hau was celebrated as one of the finest Vietnamese lacquer masters, contributing to the birth of Vietnamese lacquer art, which has grown to become a principal fine art medium in the country. In fact, it is known that Bao Dai had ordered paintings and screens from the artist – both for his personal collection and as official gifts to statesmen and politicians. Golden Sunset Over Halong Bay was created at the peak of the artist's career, bearing all the hallmarks of a Pham Hau masterpiece: original perspectives, poetic compositions, intricate details, and excellent lacquer techniques.  

And just in case you were wondering, Golden Sunset over Halong Bay carries a whopping estimate of HK$2,800,000–3,800,000.

The work, which has never been seen in public since it was created, was unveiled to the media today and will be on display at ArtSpace Helutrans from now till November 7. It's showcased alongside a curated display of artworks from Southeast Asian artists old and new, be it Tran Luu Hau, Lim Tze Peng or Olga Marie Polunin. So head on down to admire the work with your own eyes before it's being auctioned off. 

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