Yongle period silk thangka sets new Chinese art record

A hugely important Yongle period silk thangka has sold for $45m at Christie's Hong Kong today, setting a new world record for a piece of Chinese art at auction.

The piece dates to the 15th century (around 1404-1424) and depicts the Buddhist deity Raktayamari and his consort Vajravetali standing on the body of Yama, the Lord of Death.

Thangka record Christies
The thangka dates to the early 15th century

It's described by Christie's as "one of the world's great textile treasures" and is one of only seven known specimens from the period.

Liu Yiqian, a major Chinese collector, purchased the work for the Long Museum in Shanghai.

Yiqian also bought the Meiyintang Chicken Cup in April for the then record sum of $36.2m, meaning that the record for a work of Chinese art has jumped 25.1% in the past eight months.

He told the auction house: "I am proud to bring back to China this significant and historic 15th century THANGKA which will be preserved in the Long museum for years to come."

This rapid growth in the value of Chinese art is primarily due to the nation's huge economic growth. Many of those made wealthy in recent years see it as their duty to buy back the art that was bought or stolen by the West during the colonial era.  

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