Matsuo Basho haiku scroll up 150% on estimate

A circa 1688 haiku scroll by poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) led an auction of Japanese art at Bonahms in London on May 12.

It realised £37,500 ($54,026), an increase of 150% on a £15,000 ($21,610) estimate.  

Basho poem Bonhams
Basho is credited with developing the haiku form

Basho is a key figure in Japanese literature, credited with developing the haiku form.

He has been particularly influential in the West, where he is perhaps the most famous Japanese writer.

He's also known for his gentle sense of humour, as the present lot illustrates.

The text is titled Preamble and poem on Mount Katsuragi and reads: "Still, I would fain see / the god's face / in the dawning cherry blossoms".

Mount Katsuragi is home to an elemental spirit or god named Hitokotonushi no kami, who appears in various Japanese folk tales.  

The god is described as having a hideous face, showing how little Basho enjoyed the cherry blossoms.

This copy is housed in a wooden box inscribed "Scroll brushed by the venerable Basho".

A late 19th century collection of erotic woodblock prints by a variety of artists sold for £20,000 ($28,814).

It was produced to celebrate New Year in 1896 and is bound with a cover decorated with sake cups.

The five leaves at the front and back of the book display non-erotic images, evidently to disguise the book's true function.

You can check out all our books and manuscripts for sale here.

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