Lot 816. A polychrome stucco fresco fragment, Yuan-Ming dynasty. 30 5/8  by 17 7/8  in., 77.5 by 45.5 cm. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 USD. Lot sold 37,500  USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.

painted with a celestial maiden dancing amidst cloud swirls, swaying with head tilted back, one arm gracefully arced and the other extended, adorned in loose robes and billowing sashes that flutter with the movement, the fleshy rounded face with a serene expression, the hair elaborately styled and accented with jewels, all in shades of red, ocher, green, and black, framed and glazed.

Provenance: Collection of Albert M. Bender (1866-1941).
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, 1933, deaccessioned in 2001.
Christie's New York, 17th September 2008, lot 378.

Note: The dancer's graceful movements are reflected in the calligraphic swirls of her robes and ribbons, and further echoed in the billowing clouds behind. Painted in a Tang style, the present fresco is inspired by earlier depictions of Buddhist deities, such as those in the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang. Compare the sculpture and murals in Cave 57, illustrated in Roderick Whitfield et. al., Cave Temples of Mogao. Art and History on the Silk Road, Los Angeles, 2000, p. 37, as well as ornamentation and attire of the bodhisttva in cave 199, illustrated in Chang Shuhong, The Art Treasures of Dunhuang, Hong Kong and New York, 1981, pl. 78. 

Compare a closely related fragment, also from the collections of Albert Bender and the Berkeley Art Museum, sold at Christie's New York, 17th September 2008, lot 379. The similar style of painting, seen in the treatment of the clouds, robes, and faces, suggest that it may be from the same series as the present. Another related pair of frescoes from the collection of Fred Olsen, with two celestial maidens, one dancing and the other playing a dizi, sold in these rooms, 12th September 2018, lot 200. An example painted with a denser cloud ground sold in these rooms, 18th October 1945, lot 437 (part lot), and again on 22nd March 2001, lot 19. See also three fragments sold at Christie's New York, 21st September 2000, lots 201 and 202 (pair). 

Sotheby's Important Chinese Art, New York, 11 september 2019