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Silver articulated carp by artist honoured by Japan's Crown Prince for sale at Bonhams
A rare Imari blue and white porcelain spirit keg. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A series of paintings by one of Japan’s most celebrated artists, finely carved ivories, delicate porcelain and precisely crafted metalworks are just some of the items to go under the hammer in the November 6th Fine Japanese Art sale at Bonhams New Bond Street salerooms.

A highlight of the sale is a remarkable silver articulated carp by Takase Torakichi, known as Kozan (1869-1934), estimated at £60,000-80,000. Realistically rendered, the fins, mouth, eyes and tail are intricately detailed and constructed from smoothly moving parts.

After a period apprenticed to a leading master based in Kyoto, in 1893 Kozan opened his own business selling metalwork both domestically and abroad, soon becoming famous for his articulated models of sea life and insects. In 1910, the artist was singled out for high honour when the Crown Prince (later the Taisho Emperor) purchased several of Kozan's astonishingly realistic insects during a visit to Kyoto.

An additional item by Kozan, an intricately detailed iron okimono (decorative object) of an insect on a bamboo leaf, is also in this sale, with an estimate of £5,000-8,000.

Another feature of the sale is a collection of paintings by the renowned painter and lacquerer Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891), an artist not only famous in his own country but also admired by Western collectors for over a century. Before becoming Japan’s most prominent master of the art of lacquer, he was at first better known as a painter.

The great majority of Zeshin’s surviving works date from the last three decades of his life. During those years Zeshin produced a succession of masterpieces—in lacquered wood, lacquer painting, and painting in ink and colours—that attracted scores of prominent clients, earned him official honours, and made him one of the first living Japanese artists to achieve name recognition in Europe and the United States.

Bonhams will sell other masterworks by Zeshin in the Misumi Collection of Important Works of Lacquer Art and Paintings sale, on the 5th of November. Nine of these works were included in a comprehensive Zeshin exhibition held in 2012 at Tokyo’s acclaimed new Nezu Museum. In addition, an inro (medicine container) by the artist is included in the sale of the Edward Wrangham Collection: Part V, to be held on the same day.

Also of interest in the Fine Japanese Art sale is a rare Imari blue-and-white porcelain spirit keg from the early 18th century, expected to achieve £50,000-60,000. It is modelled in the form of a cheerful drunken Dutchman, smiling as he sits astride a barrel, holding aloft a small bottle in one hand and a stemmed wine glass in the other.

Other important items include a fine stained okimono ivory group of fruit by Ando Rokuzan (1885-1955). Naturalistically carved and coloured, it is estimated at £30,000-40,000. Rokuzan is known for his lifelike ivory carvings of fruits and vegetables, and works by him are preserved in the Imperial Collections.

A complete Satsuma tea set by Yabu Meizan, £15,000-18,000, comprises 17 pieces depicting boys and girls at play, making origami, performing tea ceremonies, playing card games and musical instruments, arranging flower bouquets and more.

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