Bonhams held two auctions dedicated to Japanese works of art in New York yesterday (September 18), with an Edo period (18th century) netsuke and a calligraphic screen by Shiryu Morita (1912-1999) taking the title of top lot in each sale.
The ivory netsuke was presented as part of The James A Rose Collection of Netsuke and Sagemono, which is among the finest of its kind in the world.
It made $86,500, an identical sum to the striking Shiryu Morita screen, which, emblazoned with the Japanese character for dragon in gold, sold in the Fine Japanese Works of Art auction.
The netsuke is prized as an unusually tall piece, which depicts a Chinese court noble. As Bonhams suggests: "It is amusing to conjecture whether this subject was to be an exotic foreigner, or perhaps a woman in costume."
A netsuke is a carved button-like toggle that would fasten a sagemono (a small container used for storing objects) to the obi, or sash, of a traditional Japanese kimono, in the absence of pockets.
The calligraphic screen is comprised of four panels, painted with an aluminium flake pigment in polyvinyl acetate. It is a fantastic example of Shiryu Morita's work, which is characterised by the energy of his brushstrokes.
Also selling at Bonhams was a $40,000 inlaid bronze vase from the Meiji period (1868-1912). Tall, figurative netsuke proved popular throughout, with an example depicting Ryujin, a deity of the sea, selling for $50,000.