An iconic image of the Chinese Girl, created by the Russian painter Vladimir Tretchikoff and believed to be the world's most widely-reproduced print, will go under the hammer in London. The Green Lady could fetch up to $800,000.
Millions of reproductions of the picture recognized by the model’s unusual blue-green skin tone, have been sold since it was painted in the 1950s and it has featured on t-shirts, mugs and posters.
A Russian émigré who settled in South Africa, Tretchikoff claimed that by the end of his career he had sold half a million large-format reproductions of the 'Chinese Girl' print worldwide. This doesn't include smaller print versions.
Having spent his childhood in Harbin after his family fled Russia, Tretchikoff later moved to Shanghai, where he worked in advertising and commercial illustration until 1934.
The 'Chinese Girl' is said to be inspired by the sitter Monika Sing-Lee whom the artist spotted in Cape Town and asked her to model for him.
The picture was bought directly from Tretchikoff by an American woman in Chicago when he was touring the country in the 1950's. Since then it has been in the same family and is currently being sold by the original buyer's granddaughter.
The author of the forthcoming book 'Incredible Tretchikoff', Boris Gorelik, was the first researcher to trace Sing-Lee in 2010. He remarks on the unmistakable resonance between photographs of Sing- Lee in 1952, and the painting of the 'Chinese Girl'.
“This is one of the most important pop culture icons in Britain and the Commonwealth in the 1950s to early 1960s. Today, even prints of the 'Green Lady' in mint condition, which went for a couple of pounds in their day, change hands for hundreds of pounds," Gorelik said.
The painting is up for grabs at Bonhams' South African art sale on 20 March.
"The iridescent hues of 'Chinese Girl' reflect Tretchikoff's experimentation with the possibilities of his color palette…Notably, the combination of lustrous golden silk and the blue-sheen of the model's skin combine to produce an otherworldly glow: a luminescence that is the leitmotif of Tretchikoff's best works," director of South African Art at Bonhams, Giles Peppiatt, added.