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Fearsome mask sells for exceptional price in Bonhams Fine Japanese Art Sale
Estimated at £3,500 – 4,000, bidders fiercely competed for the coveted mask, which eventually sold for £121,250. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- A striking red mask (tengu somen) forged out of a single piece of iron was one of the top lots in the Fine Japanese Art sale that took place on the 17th May at Bonhams, New Bond Street.

Estimated at £3,500 – 4,000, bidders fiercely competed for the coveted mask, which eventually sold for £121,250. The mask was in the form of tengu, a bird-like spirit who is often depicted with a reddish face and crow-like beak. In Japanese folklore the tengu is a protective, yet mischievous spirit and a popular mask subject. A mask such as this would have originally been used as a piece of armour in the 13th century, but later examples were made as showpieces for high ranking lords.

The top lot of the sale was an intricate cloisonné enamel and partial plique-à- jour square bowl by Ando Jubei from the Meiji Period (1868-1912). The bowl had an extraordinary interplay of colours, with a subtle use of traditional design and received much interest from international buyers. Estimated at £15,000 – 20,000, the bowl realised £145,250.

Further highlights included a 17th century six-panel folding screen, depicting the Uji River. Reflecting the renowned beauty of the river and its surroundings, the screen sold for £115,250.

Works by Shibata Zeshin, one of the most famous masters of the Meiji Period currently making world record prices at auction, were also included in the sale. Having set a world record for the artist two days previously, Bonhams was delighted to present a range of works by Zeshin including a lacquer three-case inro (traditional Japanese medicine cases consisting of nested boxes)that sold for £79,250. A pair of lacquer paintings sold for £51,650, exceeding the presale estimate of £15,000 – 20,000, and a lacquer four-case inro sold for £49,250.

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