Antiques 6-26-10

I saw some very nice antiques today. I think I will not see this quality again except in a museum. It occurred to me how very special these pieces are while looking at the different work today.

The first piece I saw was a Heian period renben. Here and here for some images. Renben are leaves of lotus flowers rendered in wood. I don’t know if they can be made out of anything else but I have only seen then made from wood. I actually saw the bidding on this piece when it was bought as it came through the auction I go to every month. There are traces of color on the underside of it. Points that have been drilled home to me are that Heian period renben have a very subtle curve that makes them suitable for using as plates. I don’t think the piece in the pictures will be used as a plate but the curve makes them suitable for that. The later renben, Tempyo for example, have a much more severe curve. The grain of the wood is another indicator of age. It isn’t possible to get wood that matches the fine grain. The grain pattern is called itobasa if I understood what was being said. I have prices for all the works today, something I don’t focus on that much but I will put them here for the pieces I saw today. This renben will sell for about 500,000 yen.

The next piece up is an exceptional piece. It is a Hakuho period hand from a statue. It is made of copper with a lot of detail on the back of it. It is beautiful and delicate. The box is from the Taisho period. The lid on the box slides smoothly down to within about 1.5 cm. of being completely closed. You then have to apply pressure to close it the last little bit. Boxes like this aren’t that easy to come by these days.  One thing about this piece is how unusual it is to see a fragment of a statue in Japan. If you go to India or almost anywhere in South East Asia you mostly see fragments. In Japan it is more usual to see the whole work, not a fragment.
This piece will sell for about 1,700,000 yen.

The next piece competes to be the star of the show. It is the most expensive at 20,000,000 or so yen. It is an Okugorai chawan. Here too. The real thing. The first I have seen and probably the last unless I hang around high end dealers for many more years. It is large like all okugorai tea bowls. It would be used for 4-5 people to drink tea from each time the tea was made. That is to say it is a community bowl. Okugorai tea bowls were made in the beginning of the Momoyama period.

The next piece is certainly the most detailed. It is a Chinese made okoire but the last owner used it as a chaire. It is from the Edo period. It is made from lacquer. This particular one is a tsuishu, if it was black it would be called tsuikoku. The kanji that make up the word is tsui, 堆, layered, and either 朱, red or cinnabar, read shu, or 黒, black, read koku. The handle is made from whale whisker. The whisker is bent into the desired shape and then lacquer is applied. The whole piece is made by applying layer after layer of lacquer, a time consuming process. The design is then carved into the lacquer. The Japanese tried to imitate this work but found themselves too impatient. The Japanese work that is in imitation of this Chinese work is called Kamakura Bori. The pictures from the books are of Kamakura Bori. I am always impressed at the honesty and the value the Japanese place on their own work. In this case Kamakura bori is an attempt to make fake Chinese lacquer work. If you read the link above marked “tsuishu” there is a detailed description of this type of work.

The last piece is a plate or bowl,  Hagi type ware,  from the Edo period.


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