Bonhams 12 May Fine Japanese Art Sale Results

. May 21, 2011 . 0 Comments

A rare and unique early 20th century cosmetic box by Asahi Gyokuzan was the star lot of the highlights of the Fine Japanese Art sale that took place on the 12th May at Bonhams, New Bond Street London.

Asahi Gyokuzan was a designated Imperial Court Artist and one of the most famous and influential carvers in Japan during the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

The cosmetic box, which realised £192,000, was made of white paulownia wood and represented the hallmark of the finest Japanese art: the depiction of the transience of nature. Asahi Gyokuzan deliberately used the medium of a box, since it could be opened and closed, and in doing so created a series of stories and movement of life within: the stages of the flowering chrysanthemums representing Autumn, through the flying birds on the inside of the box, and the light droplets of water, subtly inlaid in mother-of-pearl.

Other highlights of the sale included a lacquer tobacco container by the renowned artist Shibata Zeshin, one of the most famous painters and lacquerers of the Meiji period. Estimated at £25,000 – 30,000, the tobacco box – complete with provenance and historical evidence, taking its ownership directly back to Imperial Japan in the early 1890’s – decorated with an ostensibly simple gardener’s thatched hut and bonsai plants realised £96,000, after intense and enthusiastic bidding from American, Japanese and European private collectors. Three other works by Shibata Zeshin also featured among the top ten lots of the sale, reflecting the resounding endorsement of the artist’s sublime craftsmanship. A complete set of twelve silver and gold mica-ground tanzaku (poem-slips), delicately painted in brown lacquer with traditional customs and symbols associated with the twelve months of the year realised £48,000; and a small but perfectly formed black lacquer, four-case inro sold for £36,000.

A rare 18th century finely-inlaid lacquer recumbent elephant that had been in an English private collection for over a hundred years, well exceeded its pre-sale estimate of £20,000 – 30,000 to sell for £84,000. Ogawa Haritsu (otherwise known by his sobriquet Ritsuo) an artist active in the early 18th century, pre-dates Zeshin by over a hundred years, was one of the first artists to incorporate diverse materials including porcelains, metal and shell into his lacquer wares.

Finely-executed paintings, other works of art from the Meiji period including an old English private ivory collection dating from the Victorian era, mostly sold for astonishing prices; whilst an exceptionally large and intricately-carved ivory fan, depicting a spectacular shrine complex, estimated at £15,000 – 18,000 which sold for £48,000, also featured as one of the lots of the sale.

Suzannah Yip, head of the Japanese department commented: We are delighted with the results of the sale. The top ten list speaks for itself – very strong prices achieved for a mixture of fine-quality, privately-sourced material, comprising both decorative art and fine Japanese paintings ranging widely in date from the Muromachi (1333-1573) to the Meiji period (1868-1912). We are also very pleased at how our strategy to deliberately coincide the Japanese sale with the Chinese sale generated a new level of prices for the finest Tokyo School ivories, Chinese bidders were seen for the first time, providing aggressive competition for our more established buyers.

Category: Antiques

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