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Christie's presents over 100 lots in its New York Fall sale of Japanese and Korean art
Battles of Yashima and Ichinotani from The Tale of Heike. Estimate: $350,000-400,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- On September 14, Christie's will present the Fall Sale of Japanese and Korean Art, which offers over 250 exemplary works of Japanese and Korean art. With over 100 lots, the Japanese section of the sale will feature Inro from the Collection from the Estate Catherine H. Edson, paintings, lacquer wares, and furniture, while the Korean portion includes fine porcelains, as well as traditional and modern paintings by Korean masters. The sale is expected to realize in excess of $9 million.

Japanese Art
Leading the Japanese section of the sale is The Actor Otani Oniji III as Edobei in the Kabuki Play Koi nyobo somewake tazuna (The Beloved Wife’s Particolored Reins) by Toshusai Sharuku ($600,000-$800,000). This impressive portrait, along with four other lots in the sale, is among the twenty-eight masterworks of the artist, distinguished by its psychological intensity. Extremely rare, this is the most sought after of Sharaku’s portraits. Other known impressions of this are in public institutions and have been highly published and exhibited.

Also available are two exceptional six-panel screens, which depict the Battles of Yashima and Ichinotani from The Tale of Heike ($350,000-400,000). Though both dating from the Momoyama or early Edo period of the late 16th century, the two screens are the product of very different Kyoto painting ateliers. They have since been joined to create the pairing of the final two battles of the Genpei Wars, fought between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans in 1180s. The right screen illustrates the battle in the spring of 1184 at Ichinotani (near present-day Kobe), while the left screen depicts the Taira retreat to Yashima, following their defeat in 1184.

Another highlight is a spectacular lacquer cabinet of the Meiji Period, circa 1900 ($300,000-350,000). The cabinet is ornamented with a design of a famous boating excursion on the Oi River in Saga Arashiyama, the western outskirts of the Heian capital (modern Kyoto). The chest, designed by a painter and signed by three lacquer artists (Kawanobe Itcho, Kawanobe Heiemon and Funabashi Iwajiro), is a virtuoso example of Meiji craftsmanship and collaboration.

Also of note is a 12th century Heian period wood sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana) ($150,000-200,000). Presented in princely regalia, the figure forms the gesture known as the “knowledge fist” with his hands. A wooden sculpture of Amida Nyorai, of the Kamakura period of the 14th century, is also available ($150,000-200,000). Forming a different hand gesture, or mudra, than the sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai, Amida Nyorai is positioned in the gesture of “welcoming to paradise.” The position signals Amida’s descent from heaven to greet the soul of a faithful devotee at death.

A 19th century two-case lacquer inro by Koma Kansai is also available, from the Estate of Catherine H. Edson ($30,000-50,000). Immortalized in the designs on this inro are scenes from the popular kabuki play, Kanadehon Chushingura, first produced in 1748.

Korean Art
Highlighting the Korean portion of the sale is Kim Whanki’s (1913-1974) Landscape in Blue ($2,000,000-2,200,000). Whanki has become a pillar of Korean modern masters by using his unique blend of Eastern and Western influences. In the 1950’s he began to extract imagery from the Korean landscape- a blue moon, a mountain, a forest-a symbolic naturalism in keeping with post-colonial nationalism and the art name he chose, Suhwa, “to speak with the trees.” Landscape in Blue is representative of the abstract style with which the artist is so closely associated. This painting was purchased by a private collector directly from the artist.

A splendid oil and mixed media painting by Park Sookeun is also available. Returning from the Market (painted in 1965) depicts three women, all in traditional Korean clothing (hanbok), and a boy, returning home from the market ($400,000-500,000). Since Christie’s New York began selling the work of Park Sookeun eighteen years ago, he has become the most sought-after modern Korean master. Returning from the Market has remained in the hands of the same collector, who purchased it directly from Park Sookeun. Twenty-one paintings by Park Sookeun have been sold by Christie’s.

Also of note is an 18th century large blue and white porcelain bottle, painted with riverscapes and plants ($400,000-$500,000). The Joseon Dynasty bottle depicts two scenes, both framed by narrow blue lines. One illustrates a scholar and boy attendant on a rock ledge, observing a fisherman poling his boat in an inlet, bordered by willows and grasses, while the other is painted with a fisherman steering his boat in more wind-whipped water between a rocky, pine-studded shore and hills.

Also of the Joseon Dynasty is a blue and white porcelain faceted bowl with the Ten Signs of Long Life (Shipjangsaeng) ($55,000-70,000, illustrated right). The exterior of the octagonal bowl is decorated with longevity symbols, including a dragon spewing ether, a peach, a pair of confronted cranes, a pair of leaping deer, and sacred pulloch’o fungus and a pine.

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