1,000-year-old painting by Chinese artist Su Shi auctioned for almost US$60 million

HONG KONG (AFP) – A nearly 1,000-year-old ink painting by one of China’s greatest literati masters, Su Shi, fetched US$59.5 million (S$81.8 million) at auction, Christie’s said on Monday (Nov 26).

It had described the Song dynasty artwork as “one of the world’s rarest Chinese paintings”. Entitled Wood And Rock, the ink-on-paper handscroll depicts a dragon-like old tree with withered branches and a sharp rock resting at its root.

The painting was the most expensive item ever sold in Christie’s Asia, it said.

Su Shi, also known as Su Dongpo, is one of the most important cultural figures in Chinese history and was an esteemed scholar, poet, prose-writer, painter, calligrapher and statesman.

The 185.5cm-long scroll is inscribed with calligraphy and the poems of four important literati of the 11th century in China, and also exhibits the seals of 41 collectors.

“The number of the works securely attributed to him are very few, probably only two or three. They are extremely rare,” Mr Jonathan Stone, deputy chairman for Christie’s Asian art department, said in an earlier preview.

In 2010, Dizhuming, a Chinese calligraphy scroll by Huang Tingjian – Su Shi’s student – sold for US$64 million at Poly Auction in Beijing.

Hong Kong’s auction houses have seen frenzied bidding among Asian buyers in recent years, with sales of diamonds, paintings and ancient ceramics shattering world records.

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