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Bonhams breaks world record yet again for Japanese work of art in third part of Edward Wrangham sale
The top lot of the sale, and a world record for the artist sold at auction, was a lacquer single case inro by the master of the Meiji Period, Shibata Zeshin that sold for £301, 250. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- The world record for inro (traditional Japanese case consisting of nested boxes) sold at auction has been broken yet again by Bonhams in the third and final part of the Edward Wrangham sale that took place on the 15th May. With a sale total of £1.7 million, 82% sold by lot and 93% by value, one of the most important private collections of Japanese works of art has realised £5.4 million across the three sales held at Bonhams.

Considered one of Europe’s most important and comprehensive private collections of Japanese Gentleman’s accessories, it was formed by the late environmentalist, mountaineer, scholar and collector Edward Wrangham OBE.

The top lot of the sale, and a world record for the artist sold at auction, was a lacquer single case inro by the master of the Meiji Period, Shibata Zeshin that sold for £301, 250, exceeding the presale estimate of £20,000 – 30,000 by over ten times. In a sale with very competitive bidding, when this lot hit £150,000, a private client on the telephone increased the bid by £100,000, to secure the much coveted inro. This was the third time that Bonhams has broken the record for works by Shibata Zeshin at auction.

Colin Sheaf, Director of the Asian Art department commented ”Once again, the powerful attraction of an exceptional private collection, presented in a well researched and superbly illustrated catalogue, generated very high auction bidding from American, European and Japanese museum and private buyers. Even at times of economic uncertainty in the wider financial markets, a coterie of established and financially secure buyers continue to dominate a sophisticated sector of the global art market.”

Top prices were also realised for inro by other artists including a stunning 19th century, lacquer four-case inro by Koma Kansai after a design by Sakai Hoitsu. The inro depicted two crows perched on a snow-covered twisted trunk of a pine and realised £85,250 against a pre-sale estimate of £20,000 – 25,000. In Japan, the crow is considered an auspicious bird and is often depicted by artists. It is said that Kansai identified personally with the bird.

Many clients were prepared to secure pieces from this collection, reflected in the final prices realised, which often far exceeded the presale estimates. An 18th century black lacquer three-case inro by Ogawa Haritsu, inlaid with a flaming drum, sold for £56,650 (est. £8,000 – 10,000) and a rare, brown lacquer ink-cake three-case inro by Kengen, from the school of Ogawa Haritsu sold for £46,850 (est. £7,000 – 8,000).

Further highlights of the sale included an inlaid brown lacquer two-case inro by Jika Ganbun that sold for £44,450 (est. £3,000 – 5,000), an unusual gold lacquer four-case by Mototada that sold for £39,650 (est. £10,000 – 15,000) and a rare brown lacquer three-case inro by Yamada Yokasai sold for £32,450 (est. £4,000 – 4,500).

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