"It is a hand scroll 2.10 m long and 35 cm high painted in ink and colors. The title is remarkable : Five drunken kings return on horses. There are nine characters overall. The kings are riding in vacillating attitudes and four grooms attend to assure that their honorable masters will not fall.
"The artist was named Ren Renfa and lived under the Yuan dynasty 700 years ago. He was following a tradition dating back to the Tang dynasty and specialized in images of horses of great beauty. The irreverent nature of the theme is a proof of humor rare in art history suggesting a great artistic freedom at the time of the Mongolian rule."
This piece returns for sale in Beijing on December 4 at Poly Auction, lot 4050. It is in a very good contrast in spite of its age and has been carefully analyzed. The pattern of the paper is conformant to the Song technologies and is earlier than the Ming. The scroll includes ancient colophons as well as the seals of three Qing emperors.
These drunken kings can be identified and were the subject of a very ancient poem. Although his work is not uncommon, Ren Renfa was probably not a professional artist : he worked as an imperial official in charge of water control. Contrary to my 2009 enthusiasm, it is fool to discuss from that single example the freedom in artistic expression at Yuan time.
The Tang loved horses, for war and for pleasure. Artists like Han Gan and Zhang Xuan were drawing the riders with high realism and this tradition was still fresh under the Yuan. Another predecessor of Ren Renfa was the Song artist Li Longmian. The procession of drunken kings by Ren displays revealing similarities in its composition with an elegant promenade of women painted two centuries earlier by Li after Zhang and preserved at the Taiwan Museum.
SOLD for RMB 304M including premium