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Top Prices Paid Once Again for Works of Art by Japanese Artist Shibata Zeshin at Bonhams
A lacquer two-case inro By Shibata Zeshin. Sold for £120,000. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- Considered one of Europe’s most important and comprehensive private collections of Japanese Gentleman’s accessories, Bonhams announces that Part Two of the Edward Wrangham collection realised £1.6 million on 10th May.

Top prices were paid for inro* and other works of art by Shibata Zeshin (1868-1912), one of the most famous painters and lacquerers of the 19th century Meiji period in Japan. The top lot of the sale was an exquisite two case inro, lacquered with metalwork tools in gold, silver and black, with a folkloric deity called Hotei lightly engraved behind the principle lacquer. Exceeding its pre-sale estimate of £10,000 – 15,000 by eight times, the inro realised £120,000.

Also by Shibata Zeshin, a roiro lacquer five-case inro decorated in gold, silver and black with a finch perched on a cherry branch realised £102,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £20,000 – 25,000.

An extremely rare early 20th century, roiro lacquer four-case inro byShirayama Shosai (1853-1923) was also one of the top lots of the sale, exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £20,000 – 30,000 by realising £92,400. Finely lacquered in gold, the inro depicts a full-length portrait of the Kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX, a contemporary of the artist.

Ichikawa Danjuro was one of the most famous and successful Kabuki actors during the Meiji Period, and is widely credited with ensuring that the traditional art form remained vibrant as Japan struggled with Westernisation. Represented in a Shibaraku role, one of the most popular pieces in the Kabuki repertoire, he is showing off a fan, with the large square sleeves of the extravagant costume continuing on the reverse. Works by Shirayama Shosai, one the most important lacquer artists of the time,are very rare and highly sought after.

**An inro (literally meaning sealed case) is a traditional Japanese case consisting of a stack of small, nested boxes that were used to carry small objects such as seals, tobacco and medicines; the netsuke is a small carving in wood or ivory that keeps the inro securely closed. Japanese men wore traditional Kimono and the inro were worn suspended from the sash for all to see. After humble beginnings as functional items, between the 17th-19th centuries inro and netsuke were developed by some of Japan’s finest craftsmen into miniature works of art.





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