A diverse selection of works by the famous artist Shibata Zeshin, including a rare and finely-lacquered suzuribako (writing box), will be sold in the Fine Japanese Art sale on May 17th at Bonhams
, New Bond Street.
Estimated to sell for £150,000 180,000, the writing box is decorated with motifs associated with the Five Seasonal Festivals. The exterior of the lid depicts a silk winder (itomaki) and chrysanthemums, which are emblems for the Tanabata Festival in the seventh month. This celebrates the one day of the year when, according to an early Chinese legend, a Herd boy and Weaving Girl are permitted to meet. Two paper dolls (kamibina) allude to the Girls' Festival on the third day of the New Year whilst a bunch of long leaves and a display of a helmet, mask and sword portrayed on the inside of the lid, represents the Boys' Festival, celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month.
The five main festivals and their associated images provided artists such as Zeshin with numerous commissions, as it was traditional to hang paintings and display boxes in the recesses within Japanese homes.
Other works by Shibata Zeshin include an intricate inro (traditional sealed case) depicting floral patterns along with a lacquered sheath estimated to sell for £65,000 70,000 and a circular incense box estimated at £60,000 80,000. Zeshin currently holds the world record for an inro at auction, sold by Bonhams in 2011.
Also by Zeshin, a striking red and gold Japanese scroll painting (kakejiku) in ink, colours and gold on silk depicts the legendary Shoki the demon-killer, holding the hilt of his sword, glaring menacingly at a fleeing demon (oni). Both demon-killers and demons were popular themes in Japanese art and was also a favourite for Zeshin, who painted many variations on the theme.
Zeshin is one of the most famous painters and lacquerers of the 19th century and works of this quality are in high demand by collectors at an International level.
A stunning 17th century six-panel folding screen depicting the Uji river, known in ancient times for its good fishing and outstanding beauty, is estimated to sell for £60,000 80,000. With the contrast of dramatic and pictorial forms, brilliant metallic shimmer and shades of gold, this screen represents the height of Momoyama Period decorative style.
A number of extraordinary suits of Japanese armour will also be offered in the sale, including a suit made for a boy. Estimated to sell for £30,000 35,000 and consisting of iron plates laced together by cord, a facial mask, white hair and moustache, the suit appears to be an adult in every respect except size.
Suzannah Yip, Director of the Japanese Department, comments, Following a successful year where Bonhams cemented its position as European market leader for Japanese Art, we are delighted to offer such a diverse range of Japanese works of art. The excellent examples of craftsmanship and design have already led to much interest at a global level.