Rosanjin's Sakura and Fuji paintings expected to beat $1.6m

Sakura and Fuji, two paintings by Japanese artist Kitanjoi Rosanjin, are to go on sale at Bonhams' November 7 auction of fine Japanese art in London.

The paintings were recovered from a decommissioned tanker rusting in a Portuguese shipyard, and are expected to sell together for over £1m ($1.6m).

The story behind their recovery is fascinating. In 1952 Rosanjin, then aged 70, accepted a commission to decorate the walls of the dining hall aboard the Andrew Dillion - a Panamanian owned ship and the largest to be built in post-war Japan.

Rosanjin Sakura Bonhams
The paintings were recovered from a Portuguese shipyard

The compositions, Sakura and Fuji, were created in mixed media but predominantly oil. Working at high speed, Rosanjin completed the paintings in just over three weeks.

They were then exhibited in the Takashimaya department store in 1953, before being re-installed in the ship where they remained for half a century. Although initially well documented, the works fell into relative obscurity.

The Andrew Dillion was eventually refitted as a cleaning ship in Portugal in 1972, after changing ownership a number of times. When it was about to be scrapped in 1980, the screens were rediscovered and preserved on the orders of the shipyard's owner.

In 2000 they were installed in his company's head office in Lisbon and in 2009, on the 50th anniversary of Rosanjin's death, they were returned to Japan as part of a celebration marking 150 years of the Treaty of Peace, Commerce and Friendship between Portugal and Japan.

"We are especially proud that these masterpieces have been consigned to Bonhams in recognition of our leading global role as auctioneers of Japanese art", commented Colin Sheaf, chairman of Bonhams Asia.

"Kitaoji Rosanjin was an extraordinary artist as well as an extraordinary human being, and his flamboyant personality and acute aesthetic sense are fully expressed in these two spirited and beautiful works."

Bonhams' Asian art in London season will run from October 31 until November 9.

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