The £70k Japanese Kakiemon Ladies
Museum-quality porcelain figures from Japan's feudal past to star at London art auction
The centrepiece of Bonhams Japanese art sale will undoubtedly be the magnificent group of Kakiemon beauties, going under the auctioneer's hammer on November 5.
Products of a bygone era of Japan's feudal past, they were exported to the West to decorate the grand interiors of European palaces, reflecting the increasingly fashionable and sophisticated style of European Chinoiserie during the 18th and 19th century.
Estimated at £20,000-£70,000, these three figures are representations of the beautiful women (bijin) theme that was a staple of Japanese ukiyo-e paintings and woodblock prints.
They wear clothing and a hairstyle prevalent in Japan during the Kanbun era (1661-1673), when such coiffure and gorgeously-patterned robes were popular among high ranking courtesans - the fashion avant-garde of the time.
Although rare and elegant Kakiemon standing ladies are known in major museum collections, the two examples presented in this sale are set apart by their arresting, painterly designs, while the unusual French ormolu-mounted seated beauty is a supreme example of its type.
The distinctive features of the karashishi design on both the left and right side of the ormolu mount epitomise French Chinoiserie.
Mounts of this type were often used in Europe to increase the dramatic quality of Chinese and Japanese porcelains - ie, attesting to the European tastes of aristocrats and wealthy bourgeois and the esteem in which these wares were held.
A shortlisted entry for the 12th Annual Asian Art in London award for the best three-dimensional work of art, the seated bijin is akin to a very similar, un-mounted seated figure in London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
All three figures come with impeccable provenance. They are by descent from a distinguished European Noble Family and have remained in the same collection for over a hundred years, acquired originally by the owners' great-great-grandfather; a notable ambassador to the Far East in the mid 19th century.
The sale will be held at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London.