The Japanese and Korean art section of our Asian Art sales offers a large variety of works of art and features fine netsuke, sagemono and okimono, cloisonné enamel, scroll paintings, woodcut prints, ceramics, lacquerware and metalwork. Specialist sales are held twice a year at our Salisbury Salerooms and are scheduled to coincide with Asian Art in London.
Our next specialist Japanese Art sale will be on the 23rd May 2018. Highlights from the sale will be displayed at n.17, Clifford Street, W1S 3RQ London between 12th-15th May.
The sale on 23rd May includes a large selection of artworks spanning centuries and reflecting exchanges between Japan and the West: namban lacquer cabinets, Komai metalworks, Kinkozan satsuma vases and Namikawa Yasuyuki cloisonné enamels are some of the items on offer. About 100 netsuke will also be featured, including a small English private collection depicting dogs - just in time for the Chinese New Year of the Dog (Inu-Doshi).
The Kakiemon bijin illustrated above is one of the many fine-quality Japanese ceramics in the sale. Ornaments of this type seldom come to the market and although a handful of figures are known to have been made from the same press mould, each of them is decorated differently and is unique. Produced during the second half of the 17th century, these were referred to as 'Kanbun Beauties' after the Kanbun era (1661-1673). This sophisticated lady elegantly resting her hand on her hip is a high-rank courtesan who lived and worked in the pleasure quarters of Edo or Kyoto. With her multi-layered robes and her hair tied up in the gosho mage style popular at the court, she was a fashion icon of the time. The pleasure industry, also known as 'the floating word' or ukiyo, flourished in the 17th century and contributed to the emergence of a new iconography celebrating the beauty of these women, most famously in ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
After the fall of the Chinese Ming Dynasty in 1644 and the crisis ensuing in the Jingdezhen kilns, Japan took the opportunity to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the European market for oriental wares. It is very unlikely that European customers knew who these figures represented, but because of their rarity and high cost, they became precious status symbols. Merchants of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) started importing them from their trading port on Nagasaki. Kakiemon bijin and other figures (such as the boy on a drum, lot 975) became the highlights of porcelain displays in castles and palaces, and can now be seen in major museums across Europe.
We will probably never know who this beauty's enigmatic smile was intended for, but we are delighted to be offering her in our May sale, along with other Kakiemon pieces and another bijin in the Imari palette.
Twelve Years, Twelve Treasures catalogue