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Array of Asian antiques available in Jasper52 auction Nov. 4

Original Samurai swords are among the top items in a Jasper52 auction of Asian antiques on Saturday, Nov. 4. Also featured are carved miniature works of art called netsuke. This online-only auction with its diverse offerings showcases the rich history and cultural variety of Asia.

Pair of phoenix birds, Chinese porcelain, late Qing Dynasty, 19th century, 16in. Estimate: $1,100-$1,200. Jasper52 image

View the auction.

Learn more about the auction on Auction Central News.

6 Asian Arts Pieces Steeped in Tradition

Showcasing the rich history and cultural variety of Asia, this week’s curated Asian Decorative Art and Antiques collection features highly collectible Thangka paintings, Japanese weapon accessories, exquisite Chinese ceramics, and so much more. Below are six standout items you’re bound to enjoy.

Parinirvana Buddha Thangka Painting

Thangkas are Tibetan paintings on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. The thangka featured in the collection carries the auction’s highest estimate – $2,000-$2,500 – is by the artist Urken Lama. The scene depicts the Buddha Shakyamuni’s nirvana, his passing from earthly life to the ultimate goal of an enlightened being: “released from the bonds of existence through negation of desires that cause life’s intrinsic suffering.”

Parinirvana Buddha thangka painting by Urken Lama, 32 in. x 48 in. Estimate: $2,000-$2,250. Jasper52 image

 

Antique Meiji Scroll

Turning to the Land of the Rising Sun, this late Meiji scroll painting, ink on paper, features a classic mountainous landscape. It is an excellent painting for a tea ceremony.

Late Meiji (1890-1912) Japanese hanging scroll, ink on paper, of classic landscape signed Shoko followed by two red paste seals of the artist, 74 in x 30.5 in. Estimate: $165-$185. Jasper52 image

 

Antique Meiji Oribe Tea Ceremony Chaire

This Japanese pottery Oribe ware chaire, a jar for storing powdered green tea used in the tea ceremony, has a characteristic rich green crackled glaze and an underglaze brown painting of pine and saplings. Oribe ware, named after Furuta Oribe, a famous 16th-century tea master, was produced in the Mino and Seto kilns during the late Meiji period. It is particularly Japanese in taste and was not made for export. The stoneware body has concentric lines, stamped with the seal of the potter by the bottom.

Late Meiji Japanese pottery Oribe ware chaire, a tea caddy for storing powdered green tea used in tea ceremony. Height with cover: 3 1/16in. Estimate: $165-$185. Jasper52 image

 

Late Meiji Wooden Netsuke of Tanuki

From the late Meiji period is this charming netsuke in the form of a seated tanuki, a Japanese raccoon dog. In Japanese folklore the tanuki is a notorious trickster, who drums with his paws on his belly, imitating the sounding of gongs in temples and inns, and leading tired travelers astray in the darkness. This netsuke is skillfully carved in ittobori (one cut) style characteristic of the Hida school, with clever use of wood texture to add to the charm of the piece. It is signed “Kazuyuki,” an artist listed in Netsuke & Inro Artists and How to Read Their Signatures by George Lazarnick.

Late Meiji (1890s – 1910s) wooden netsuke of a tanuki, horn inlaid eyes, signed Kazuyuki (inset), 1 5/8 inches high, Estimate: $300-$350. Jasper52 image

 

Fighting Samurai Sword Menuki

Menuki are ornaments that fit into the palm for grip on a Japanese sword. Several pairs of menuki are included in this auction. This particular pair depicts armed samurai in bronze with silver inlays and gilding.

Pair of early 19th-century Japanese sword menuki, each depicting a samurai, bronze with silver inlays and gilding, 1 1/16 in. Estimate: $300-$350. Jasper52 image

 

Chinese Scholar’s Rootwood Brushrest

From 19th-century China is this scholar’s brush-rest / scholar’s rock made of rootwood, which looks like a craggy mountain range. Fashioned from the natural root of a tree, the piece exhibits old cracks, nicks, and scratches, adding to its wild energy.

Nineteenth-century Chinese scholar’s rootwood brush rest / scholar’s rock giving an impression of a craggy mountain, 5 1/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. Estimate: $225-$250. Jasper52 image

 

There are more treasures to be found. View the full catalog in this auction of Asian Arts and Antiques.

6 Fascinating Facts About Cats in Japanese Art

It’s hard to dispute the global popularity of cats, whether you fancy them or not. From museums to memes, they are represented in ancient Japanese art and contemporary communications. That’s quite a narration for the four-legged creatures who reportedly first took up residence in Japan around 500 A.D. The cats were brought on as crew members of ships departing China for Japan, charged with the task of protecting religious documents against destruction by mice. Obviously, their missions as mousers runs deep.

Upon arriving in Japan, it didn’t take long for felines to establish a revered presence within ancient Japanese culture. However, even as celebrated as they were, according to Japanese folklore, cats were also viewed by some as devious and perhaps possessing of darker traits. Nevertheless, one thing is certain, the presence of felines in Japanese art is extensive, and dates back centuries. With that, here are 6 intriguing facts about cats in Japanese art.

  1. One of the masters of ukiyo-e woodblock art of the 17th century, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), was reportedly a serious fan of felines, often sharing his living space with multiple cats at any given time. In fact, it is said that he kept a record of the cats that died, and treated the passing of each with a great symbolic reverence.

    Ukiyo-e woodblock art, “Cats of the Tokaido Road Triptych” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. Sold for $1,100. Jasper52 image

  2. Another centuries-old applauded feline of Japanese art and culture is the Maneki Neko. Immediately recognizable for its raised and welcoming paw, the Maneki Neko (commonly referred to as Fortune Cat or Lucky Cat) is said to bear multiple telling symbols. For example, if the Maneki Neko bears calico colors, which is a traditional shading, it is said to hold the most potential for luck. You might also notice, the raised paw of a Maneki Neko figurine could be either the left or the right paw. Either way, the symbolism is positive, and is said to be a gesture of beckoning wealth and luck.
  3. In 1979, Japan issued a commemorative postage stamp featuring the painting “Black Cat,” circa 1910, created by Meiji-period painter Hishida Shunso (formal name was Hishida Miyoji) during a period of only five days. Interestingly, Shunso’s portrait also appeared on a postage stamp, as part of Japan’s Famous Japanese Personalities series in 1951.

    An image of the painting done by Shunso in 1910, and the postage stamp featuring the image, issued in 1979. ArtHistoryProject.com images

  4. One of the most heralded modern exhibitions featuring cats in Japanese artwork was the “Life of Cats: Selections From the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection.” The exhibition was presented in 2015 by the Japan Society Gallery in New York. Nearly 90 examples of Japanese art, in various mediums, was included in the exhibition.
  5. The presence of cats in Japanese art isn’t limited to sweet and small. Big cats also appear in artwork dating back centuries. One of the largest and most diverse collections of Japanese art in the world can be found at The Cleveland Museum of Art. The collection boasts 1,950 pieces, including the impressive six-panel ink on paper work titled “Dragon and Tiger” by 16th century Japanese and Zen monk Sesson Shukei.

    “Dragon and Tiger” six-panel folding screen ink on paper, 16th century, by Sesson Shukei. The Cleveland Museum of Art image

     

  6. Cats are also beloved characters within the storylines and art of modern-day manga – comics created in Japan. For instance, the character Minako Aino, in the wildly popular “Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon” manga of the late 20th century, is accompanied by her talking guardian and advisor, a white cat named Artemis. The manga is the vision of Japanese artist and writer Nako Takeuchi (1967). The illustrations and largely female-led cast of characters went on to influence the development of Magical Girl manga and anime.

Be it centuries-old ukiyo-e woodblock art or modern-day manga and anime art, the reverence for felines is a common thread within the art culture of Japan. Whether it’s because of their supposed mystical properties, elegant and mysterious characteristics, or something else altogether, the fascination with felines in Japanese art and society is alive and well.

 

6 Unique Pieces of Asian Decorative Art

The mystique and beauty of Asian decorative arts are readily apparent in this collection that includes highly collectible Indian statues, expertly executed scroll paintings, ceramics, cloisonné and carvings. Take a look below for 6 highlights from this stunning catalog.

A rare Tibetan thangka depicting Gyayin – the King of hte Mind – riding an elephant, while holding a snare in one hand to throw at his enemies and a razor in the other to cut “the life-roots of the obstacle-creating demons.” Dharmapala Pehar, the head of the Five Kings, is depicted in the lower right corner riding a white lion. Monbu Putra – the King of the Body – is shown in the lower left corner riding a lioness. Shing Jachen – the King of Virtue – is shown in the upper right corner riding a black horse. Dralha Kyechikbu – the King of Speech – is shown in the upper left corner riding a mule. This rare icon, beautifully painted with natural mineral pigments and gold on cotton, exhibits superb detailing.

Rare 18th- or early 19th-century framed Tibetan thangka depicting Gyayin. Painting size in sight: 9 1.2 x 8in (24.2cm x 20.2cm); frame size: 15 1/4 x 13 1/4in (38 x 34cm). Estimate: $1,300-$1,500. Jasper52 image

 

A beautiful original scroll painting on silk by Watanabe Seitei (1851-1918) titled Sparrow and Peony in Snow is a featured item in the auction. Trained by Japanese masters, Seitei received a silver medal for a painting he submitted to the Paris Exposition in 1878. He remained in Paris for three years and became the first Nihonga artist to reside in Europe to study Western painting.

Original scroll painting on silk by Watanabe Seitei (1851–1918), ‘Sparrow and Peony in Snow,’ signed ‘Seitei,’ late 19th–early 20th century, water stain at bottom, image size 47 1/4in X 17 1/2in. Estimate: $575-$625. Jasper52 image

 

Among the oldest objects in the auction is a Shang Dynasty (1766 BC – 1046 BC) pottery vessel, which is simply made of fired clay and stands at 10 1/2 inches tall.

Shang Dynasty pottery vessel, 8in wide x 7 1/2in deep x 10 1/2in. Estimate: $800-$900. Jasper52 image

 

From the early 20th century, is a bronze Tibetan Bodhisattva Du Mu figure, which is skillfully made and in its original condition.

Tibetan handmade bronze Bodhisattva, 12in high, circa 1900–1940. Estimate: $450-$500. Jasper52 image

 

Carved from burlwood, a 2-inch toggle of a seated man served a purpose in its day. This larger example of the form would have been strung with a cord through the holes under each arm, hung from a sash and used as a counterweight to a tobacco pouch or other utilitarian object. It is a fine example of 18th- or 19th-century Chinese folk art.

Chinese toggle carved burlwood toggle, mid 1700s to 1800s, 2in high x 2 1/4in wide. Estimate: $525-$600. Jasper52 image

 

Finally, an unusual item for smokers is a Chinese water pipe dating to the first half of the 20th century. It is decorated in enameled copper, which has its original finish. The pipe is complete with a tobacco holder, brush and tobacco tweezers.

Chinese water pipe, 1900-1940, 16 1/2in high, enameled copper. Estimate: $220-$250. Jasper52 image

 

Tracing the History of Chinese Porcelain

Porcelain is often recognized and celebrated for its translucence, but it is far from delicate. In fact, by its very nature, formed and forged by fire, porcelain is like a beautiful phoenix rising out of the flames.

Pinpointing the period when porcelain was first developed is a bit tricky. According to some resources, it was at least two millennia ago. There are reported discoveries of “near porcelain” in regions active with civilization during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC), as well as examples dating to China’s Eastern Han Dynasty (221-206 BC). Other resources point to the Tang Dynasty era (618-970 AD) as the period in history when porcelain became widely known.

Copper-red dragon and phoenix vase, Qianlong seal mark and of the period, sold at auction for $259,708 (inclusive of buyer’s premium) in February 2017. Image courtesy Rob Michiels Auctions

One thing that seems to be apparent is that each dynasty in the history of porcelain helped to hone its production and presentation. Be it techniques used to make porcelain, methods of exporting, development of regions rich with firing kilns, or variation in design and decoration, it’s evident that porcelain’s history is one of multigenerational influence and evolution.

Not unlike most antiquities today, porcelain rose out of necessity. Creating utilitarian vessels to serve people’s day-to-day needs led to the creation of the remarkably durable, yet luminous medium that could be molded, dried, and fired. During the Tang Dynasty, when some of the earliest formal kilns for porcelain production were established in Chinese provinces, new specialities were produced: celadon in the Zheijiang province, and white porcelain in the Hebei province.

Porcelain Point: The city of Jingdezhen in China’s Jiangxi Province is one of the most prolific and longest tenured porcelain-producing regions, dating back more than 1,700 years. Today many traditional porcelain-making techniques are being passed on to artisans attending classes at the Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen.

Celadon green vase with floral motif, Qing Period/19th century, Qianlong mark, 14” h. x 9-1/2” w. Estimate: $600-$800. Image courtesy Jasper52

In the beginning, export of porcelain for monetary gain wasn’t a consideration. However, that changed as visitors became more prevalent in China. With porcelain finding favor among the elite of Chinese society, it was not uncommon for leaders to bestow gifts of porcelain to visitors from abroad. After a trip to China around 850 AD, Muslim explorer Suleiman wrote that he had viewed porcelain for the first time, a revelation that attracted widespread interest. Paraphrased, and based on various reports of the translation of his writings, Suleiman reported that Chinese artisans used a fine clay to make vases that were both transparent and strong. Curiosity in the Western world led to a demand that turned porcelain into a product for export.

Porcelain Point: For centuries porcelain ranked #2 among China’s leading exports, just behind silk. This included years when Chinese emperors banned the export of all goods, including porcelain.

Porcelain Chinese punch bowl, 18th century, offered by Cohen & Cohen, during the 63rd Annual Winter Antiques Show in New York. Image courtesy Christie’s

Even with its deep and diverse history, the popularity of porcelain is far from a thing of the past. Today it takes pride of place in museum exhibitions, is a popular attraction at antique shows around the world, is the subject of study by academics, and is the focus of bidding battles at auction. Reporting on the 63rd Annual Winter Antiques Show held in New York earlier this year, former New York Times columnist Wendy Moonan selected not one, but two items from the porcelain family to include in her compilation of 10 stand-out items from the show. The highlights included an 18th-century punch bowl featuring a scene taken from a theatrical presentation, and a circa-1990 celadon platter made by Kawase Shinob – yet another example of porcelain’s appeal, whether it is of ancient past or contemporary times.


Sources:
A History and Description of Chinese Porcelain by William Cosmo Monkhouse
UNESCO
Gotheborg.com
Encyclopedia Brittanica
Independent
China Museums

 

The Complete History of Snuff Bottles

The snuff bottle is a marriage of craftsmanship and artistry that evolved in ancient China and Mongolia. Even with a practical purpose in mind, these functional items quite often feature detailed and elegant designs that artfully reflect their cultural origin.

Painted White Agate Snuff Bottle, Est. $100-$200, Nov. 6 Jasper52 Sale

Painted White Agate Snuff Bottle, Est. $100-$200, Nov. 6 Jasper52 Sale

The origin of snuff’s arrival in China is a topic of debate. According to some historians and historical records, members of China’s imperial families and social elite were introduced to snuff by European missionaries and merchants. This reportedly occurred during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Other reports say that snuff made its way to China by way of Japan.

The popularity of snuff — tobacco leaves finely ground and infused with herbs and spices — grew rapidly in China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). As more people discovered the stimulating and relaxing effects of snuff, as well as its ability to “cure” aches and pains, colds, and digestive issues, efforts to create snuff containers began. Chinese and Mongolian craftsmen began developing the diminutive bottles, with a cork affixed to the stopper in order to ensure the snuff remained fresh.

By the middle of the Qing Dynasty, the use of snuff and snuff bottles had spread throughout China and into nearly every aspect of society. The bottles were appreciated not only as a means for carrying and accessing snuff anywhere, but also for their artistry and decorative appeal, according to an article by Zhixin Jason Sun, curator, Department of Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Painted White Agate Snuff Bottles, Est. $100-$200, Nov. 7 Jasper52 Sale

Painted White Agate Snuff Bottles, Est. $100-$200, Nov. 7 Jasper52 Sale

While early snuff bottles were made from a variety of materials, glass and variations of glass with artistic elements were by far the most popular. In fact, in an article appearing on The Cultural Concept Circle, it is reported that Emperor Kangxi established a central glass workshop early in the Qing Dynasty with snuff bottles as one of the primary products. During the Qing Dynasty, snuff bottles were produced primarily in six regions: Guangzhou, Beijing, Boshan, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning Province, and Tibet. The area of Liaoning was best known for producing agate snuff bottles.

The most popular types of glass snuff bottles include:

  • Reverse-painted-on-glass: Largely said to have become popular in the middle of the Qing Dynasty, they are still created by artisans today. The bottles are decorated with paintings and often include calligraphy on the inside. Scholars were among the first to create this type of snuff bottle, accessing the polished “canvas” of glass through the mouth of the bottle, then carefully painting the scene.
  • Overlay-on-glass, also referred to as Peking glass: This type of snuff bottle is created when an artisan uses a singular color of glass as the base, then adds layers of contrasting colored glass. After the layers have been added, the artist carves a design. In do doing, each of the layers of glass is revealed, according to an article posted on the Scanlan Fine Arts Gallery website.
  • Agate: This type of stone was first utilized in snuff bottles by artisans living in Beijing. In a Collectors Weekly article by snuff bottle expert Vincent Fausone Jr., the author explains that winter temperatures in Beijing could drop considerably, and in that climate, glass bottles could shatter. This led to the use of stone, especially agate.
  • Enameled: Antique enameled snuff bottles are miniature works of art that required a high level of workmanship on the part of the artisan creating them. The temperature had to be very carefully monitored as the enamel was applied, Fausone Jr. explained, adding that craftsmen in ancient China learned the enameling technique from European Jesuits.

It was common for the palm-sized masterpieces known as snuff bottles to be capped with a piece of jade. The jade would be attached to the cork stopper, which in many cases had a small spoon fastened to it. The spoon was used to assist in sniffing the snuff.

  • Jade: In addition to serving as the material from which many snuff bottle caps were made, jade was also used as a primary material for the bottles themselves. Over the centuries, Chinese leaders have viewed jade with reverence. During the Han Dynasty, Xu Shen extolled the five virtues of jade: benevolence, honesty, wisdom, integrity and bravery.
Jade Snuff Bottle, Est. $10-$200, Nov. 7 Jasper52 Sale

Jade Snuff Bottle, Est. $10-$200, Nov. 7 Jasper52 Sale

Just as snuff bottles were appreciated for their beauty and cultural significance during the Qing Dynasty, they continue to be held in high regard by collectors, historians and designers alike. Small in stature, diverse in composition and artistry; and varied in cost, they comprise an endless collecting field to explore and enjoy.

 

View the exceptional snuff bottles in this week’s Asian Antiques Jasper52 auction.


Additional Sources: