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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