Traditional Japanese Art From the Last Three Centuries Comes to Auction With Bonhams

Shreeya Maskey
Published on

Bonhams’ upcoming Edo Sparkle and Tokyo Splendor sale will offer examples of Japanese art from across the last three centuries. The available works of decorative and fine art highlight the country’s culture and traditions. Before the bidding starts, learn more about these lots and their history.

Tobacco tray by Shibata Zeshin. Meiji era (1868 - 1912). Image from Bonhams.
Tobacco tray by Shibata Zeshin. Meiji era (1868 – 1912). Image from Bonhams.

Shibata Zeshin

Shibata Zeshin, a versatile artist with expertise in several mediums, bears a lasting influence on the art world. Zeshin worked in oil painting, lacquer craft, and urushi-e (lacquer painting). Though mainly recognized as a lacquer painter, the Japanese artist was also known for his tobacco trays.

The upcoming sale presents Shibata Zeshin’s tobacco tray from the Meiji era (estimate: USD 7,000 – $9,000). The tray features highly polished black takamaki-e (low relief lacquer decorations). It shows a crow-shaped kite and a spool that can only be viewed from below.

A Mino stoneware Koro (incense burner), Shino type. Image from Bonhams.
A Mino stoneware Koro (incense burner), Shino type. Image from Bonhams.

Mino Stoneware Koro (Shino Type)

Shino ware is a type of glazed ceramic with a long history in Japanese art. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1574 – 1600), the pieces were most popular in Okaya, Gotomachi, and Kujiri. Shino wares were primarily used in tea ceremonies. The decorations on these pieces changed over the years, starting with only monochromatic tones before later incorporating iron oxide details.

A 17th-century Shino-type incense burner is available with Bonhams in the upcoming sale (estimate: $5,000 – $7,000). Intricate geometric patterns decorate the stoneware vessel. Rectangular boxes contain each design. While the neck of the vessel features concentric rings, the rim bears crackled lines.

A group of ten wood mask netsuke. Image from Bonhams.
A group of ten wood mask netsuke. Image from Bonhams.

Wood Mask Netsuke

Japanese art collectors can also consider several examples of netsuke among the auction’s leading lots. That includes a group of ten wood mask netsuke, crafted between the Edo period and the Showa era (estimate: $4,000 – $5,000). Among the ten pieces is a mask of Kongo Rikishi. Japanese Buddhist mythology believed Kongo Rikishi to be a guardian and a protector of the Buddhist faith.

Because traditional kimonos lack pockets, netsuke were designed to secure objects such as medicine boxes, pipes, or tobacco pouches. During the Tokugawa period (1603 – 1868), netsuke were an important part of traditional Japanese attire. Netsuke craftsmen during the 18th century utilized the inlaying technique. These artisans used coral, ivory, pearl shell, horn, and precious metals on lacquer and wood to create miniature netsuke.

Another set of wood mask netsuke will be available in the live sale (estimate: $4,000 – $5,000). The set includes a persimmon wooden mask of a demon, a shishi (mythical lion), and a monkey.

Bonhams’ Edo Sparkle and Tokyo Splendor auction of Japanese art begins on June 18th, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT. Register to bid and view each of the lots on Bonhams.

Want to learn more about Japanese art? Check out Auction Daily’s coverage of traditional Japanese boxes.

Media Source
Writer
James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

More in the auction industry