Lot 268. Mai Trung Thứ (1906-1980), Deux fillettes (Two Girls), signed, stamped with a seal of the artist and dated 1940. Ink and gouache on silk, 42 by 25 cm; 16 1/2  by 9 3/4  in. Estimate 220,000 — 350,000 HKD. Photo: Sotheby’s.

Provenance: Private Collection, Japan

Notes: Mai Thu is celebrated for his skill in painting with ink and gouache on silk, with the paintings being seen as a combination of Eastern aesthetics with the French salon style. He was inspired by traditional folk themes centering on domestic scenes and daily activities. The paintings often depicted people and scenes from the artist’s past, instilling a sense of nostalgia for the rustic fragrance of everyday Vietnamese life from a bygone era.

Deux Fillettes stands out from his oeuvre as a special piece portraying the intimate rapport amongst friends. The scene engages the audiences to reminiscence about their childhood. The two girls are creating a silent dialogue as they read a book together. The artist often painted domestic scenes, exemplifying the value of community and human relationship. In the current work both girls are seated on a bench, the gracefully decorated furniture seen as a bridge that physically and mentally connects them together, thus symbolizing their sisterly bond.

The present painting alludes to the artist’s sentimental longing for his childhood. Mai Thu’s application of silk further enhances the mood of the narrative, the pastel colours gifting the figures with a special elegance and charm. Deux Fillettes is scented by Mai Thu’s love for a bygone era, for his paintings are respected as vignettes of Vietnamese life, moments from his personal history that are serene and peaceful.

Sotheby’s. Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, Hong Kong, 03 Oct 2016, 10:00 AM