£30k board game among Japanese cloisonne gems for sale

Japanese Art was internationally influential by the turn of the 20th century, and cloisonné produced in Japan was at the vanguard of this trend.

As series of rare Japanese cloisonné enamel artefacts will be going under the hammer at Bonhams Japanese art sale on November 5.

Traditionally, cloisonné (shippo-yaki - in Japanese) was used to embellish small pieces, such as sword fittings, and was largely considered a Chinese Art form.

However, from the 1830's onwards, the Japanese developed a technical and aesthetic mastery that was to both heighten the visual appeal of their creations and permanently intertwine Japan and fine cloisonné enamel pieces into the minds of Eastern and Western connoisseurs.

The late Meiji and Taisho periods witnessed some of the most impressive examples of cloisonné produced to date. 

The full size model of a go-ban by Honda Kozaburo of Nagoya is such an example. It was previously unrecorded, which strongly suggests that it was a piece commissioned by a wealthy patron or that it was made for an International Exhibition entry in the early 20th century.

Japanese Go-ban board game
A Japanese Go-ban board game by Honda Kozaburo (£25k-35k)

Go - the preferred game of Ancient Japan's nobles and monks and today's intellectuals - is widely considered to be the world's greatest strategic skill game, far surpassing Chess in its complexity and scope.

The mathematical elegance of the rules is complemented by the great beauty of the board, especially in Japan where it has been elevated to a pinnacle of aesthetic beauty. In the West, it is the best known Japanese board game and has featured in a number of books and films; most recently Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind.

An outstanding example of its kind, the game board is equally remarkable for its size, weight, material, extraordinary workmanship and fine condition and will no doubt exceed its modest estimates of £25,000-35,000.

It is also extremely rare to find an existing signed piece by an artist whose works are as highly sought after today as they were during their lifetime.

A meticulously crafted gosho-guruma (£25,000-30,000)
A meticulously crafted gosho-guruma (£25,000-30,000)

Also embedded among the cloisonné gems is a brightly-coloured, rare and meticulously crafted gosho-guruma (ox-drawn carriage) attributed to Kawaguchi Bunzaemon of Nagoya which is expected to reach a very significant £25,000-30,000. The only other known example of such a piece is in the Imperial Collection in Japan.

All these outstanding examples of craftsmanship demonstrate the breathtaking standard of technical and aesthetic expertise that typifies so much of Japanese art - and all that can be had for what represents relatively little outlay.

"We are delighted to present such a broad spectrum - from the classical to modern - of fine quality Japanese art, as part of Asia Week in London. Never before in a Bonhams' fine Japanese sale has the perspicacious collector been so spoilt for choice," said Suzannah Yip, Head of Bonhams Fine Japanese Art Department.

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