Early Ming Dynasty Ink on Silk

Value (2012) | $40,000 Auction$60,000 Auction

This painting belonged to my mother, and it was always one of my favorites, so several years before she died, she gave it to me. Now, she had acquired it from a friend who was also an art collector, and not much more information was given to her except for a little plastic bag that had fragments of a page supposedly from an auction catalog, and on it was this picture of this painting. It showed that this man was called a lohan, was supposed to be a religious person who was reading scriptures and burning incense, and it had a word "Yuan" on it, and I had originally thought it was an artist, but it turned out it was referring to a dynasty.

When did your mom get it, roughly what year?

She got it probably in the mid-'60s.

Do you know what she paid for it when she purchased it?

She said she paid several hundred dollars, not over $1,000, but I don't know exactly.

What's really interesting about this picture is the dramatic size of the individual, the scope, the scale of the image. We have this man that's seated on a circular stool, which is made up of bamboo sections bound together by reeds, and he's dressed in this incredibly lavish, very luxurious fabric that actually has a number of roundels, of which you can see here and here and scattered throughout, along with fringe that is in gold to give you a sense that this is an important person. And he is sitting, examining scriptures, and as he's seated, you have before him an archaic bronze vessel, which is a censer, which is something that stylistically one would date to 1,000 years or more earlier. And you have next to that a box that would have held incense. The coral beads around the hand, the wonderful interplay of colors, of the gold and the blue and the red, and then in the background you have the bamboo, so the setting is just very, very atmospheric. It's a terrific painting and it captures your attention when you see it. One of the other things to notice about this, just aside from the striking composition, is the condition. Very difficult to see from a distance, but easier to see close up, you can see the lines and the breaks in the silk fabric on which this is painted. So my sense is that this is a painting of terrific quality, it's unsigned, dating from the early Ming dynasty, and the early Ming dynasty would be somewhere in the 14th, 15th century. So with all that information, we have to then decide what is the value, and with the market being strong today for Chinese art, I believe there'd be considerable value for this. What do you think this might be worth?

I have no idea.

Give me a guess.


I think you're headed in the right direction, but I would actually say closer to $40,000 to $60,000 in an auction sale.

That's great.

Appraisal Details

Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2012)
$40,000 Auction$60,000 Auction
Seattle, WA (August 18, 2012)
Asian Arts
Ink , Silk

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