On the abolition of the Samurai, the Kyoto firm began making decorative objects, mostly made for export. Under the leadership of Komai Otojiro, the company became renowned for producing works displaying the textured inlay in gold and silver technique known as nunome-zougan.
Many were shown at international exhibitions either by the Komai Company of Kyoto or dealers such as Ikeda Seisuke marketing a selection of Japanese products.
The November 4 auction of Fine Asian & Islamic Works of Art at Lyon & Turnbull (26% buyer’s premium) in London included two impressive examples of the nunome-zougan technique: a cabinet in the form of a traditional Japanese timber building and another modelled as a two-storey shrine.
Both came from a private Scottish collection in Perthshire.
The former, finely decorated to the roof with phoenixes and dragons and to the walls with various houses in Mount Fuji landscape setting, sold at £14,000 (estimate £1500-2000. The shrine, decorated respectively with cranes, magpies, phoenix and peacocks in rural settings or seasonal flowers, made £10,000 (guide £2000-2500).
Mark of Ippu
Among the best pieces of Meiji metalwork on offer this season was a pair of 9in (22cm) high damascene bronze and silver vases carrying the mark of Kashima Ippu (1828-1900).
A master of nunome-zogan in particular who exhibited at the 1890 National Industrial Exposition, a landscape plaque by him is in the collection of Tokyo National Museum.
The pair of vases, decorated with panels of ducks in flight, swimming carp, fishing boats and mountain landscape views, came for sale at Dore & Rees (25% buyer’s premium) in Frome, Somerset, on November 7 from the descendants of Joshua Neale with an estimate of £25,000-35,000 but sold at £58,000.
Neale was a partner in Neale and West, a firm of Cardiff fish merchants established in 1885. Following a friendship with a Japanese businessman, its fleet of steam trawlers were given Japanese names such as Fuji, Oku and Kyoto. During the First World War most of the vessels were taken over by the Admiralty, mainly for use as minesweepers, with seven lost to enemy action.
The vases appear in a photograph of Oxton House, Devon taken c.1920.
Roseberys’ (25% buyer’s premium) sale of Chinese, Japanese & South East Asian Art on November 8 included a pair of 4½in (12cm) vases made by the workshop of the master cloisonné artist Hayashi Kodenji.
Cloisonné is easily damaged, so it is rare to find vases in this condition, almost perfectly preserved in silk-lined boxes for much of their lives. They did not appear expensive at £2400.
A pair of impressive Satsuma earthenware stick stands took £8800 at Toovey’s (24.5% buyer’s premium) in Washington, West Sussex on November 10.
Modelled in high relief with a figural scene beneath a brocade ‘fabric’ canopy each measured 2ft 4in (70cm) high and carried a gilt signature panel to the underside. Both pieces had significant damage including a missing foot and losses to the sculptural decoration.
Wrapped by wisteria
At Arthur Johnson (24% buyer’s premium) in Nottingham on November 26, an 11in (27cm) Satsuma vase with a Kinkozan mark sold at £2400 (estimate £100-150). It was decorated with two large panels of wisteria growing around a lodge and a grove of bamboo and chrysanthemum.
The Kinkozan studio in Kyoto was both the largest producer of Kyo-Satsuma and the maker of some of the finest quality Satsuma items. A midnight-blue ground vase signed with a tablet reading Kinkozan and a four-character mark, Kageyama seizo, sold for £1400 at Sworders (25% buyer’s premium) in November 4. It was painted with panels of figures gathering under cherry blossoms or in a courtyard of a temple.
The Makuzu Koza workshop in Yokohama was one of the many makers of Satsuma-style pottery but from the 1880s focused increasingly on porcelain in a variety of styles. The best-known of these are the taka-ukibori wares distinctive for their realistic three-dimensional high relief decoration or sculptural pieces such as the snow-capped polar bears vase sold at Ma San in Bath on December 3 for £22,000 (pictured on the front cover of ATG No 2572).
Two more modest examples of the output of Miyagawa Kozan (1842-1916) were sold in November.
A 9in (23cm) Chinese style blue and white porcelain garlic neck vase painted with writhing dragons took £1300 at Golding Young & Mawer (24% buyer’s premium) in Grantham on November 23, while an 11in (28cm) gourd shape vase, decorated with enamel foliage, dragonflies, butterflies and wasps made £1600 at Minster Auctions (20% buyer’s premium) in Leominster on November 2.