Japanese art by Tomotada, Masanao and others stars in $3.2m auction


On the November 8, Bonhams will be selling the Harriet Szechenyi Collection of Japanese Art in New Bond Street, London.

Much like the author Edmund de Waal in his memoir "The Hare with the Amber Eyes", Harriet Szechenyi was fascinated in building a unique collection that had passed from hand to hand, travelling the world and studying the history of the works of art.

Born into a Swiss family of collectors, Harriet travelled extensively to Japan, America and Europe and in the UK met the Japanese art specialist, Luigi Bandini, who shared his enthusiasm and passion for netsuke.

With his advice, Harriet began to build what became one of the finest collections of its time formed during the second half of the 20th century, containing an unprecedented number of high-quality pieces.

Harriet taught herself to read the characters of the signatures on the signed pieces and became knowledgeable about the mythology depicted in the objects she collected.

As an animal-lover Harriet had a preference for animal models of netsuke, including birds, aquatic creatures, reptiles and insects. Where human figures are represented in the collection, it is generally due to their association with an animal or imaginary creature.

The top lot of the sale, a finely detailed ivory netsuke of a stag by the Kyoto master Okatomo, late 18th/early 19th century, is estimated to sell for £50,000 - 60,000. A netsuke is a small carving in wood or ivory that keeps the inro (see below) securely closed.

An ivory netsuke of a kirin (animal god) by the Kyoto master Yoshimasa

Further highlights include an ivory netsuke of a kirin (animal god) by another Kyoto master, Yoshimasa, early 19th century, (estimated at £50,000 - 60,000).

A rare ivory netsuke of two recumbent stallions by Masanao, Kyoto, late 18th century (estimated at £30,000 - 35,000), and a fine boxwood netsuke of a chicken and young, by Masanao, Kyoto, late 18th century (estimated at £25,000 - 30,000).

Other works within the sale at Bonhams include a superb collection of inro (an inro is a traditional Japanese case consisting of a stack of small, nested boxes) due to Harriet Szechenyi's later interest in the Japanese art of lacquering

Neil Davey, Senior Consultant for the Japanese Department comments "Bonhams is exceptionally honoured to present this extraordinary collection of Japanese art.

"It was the wish of Harriet Szechenyi and her family that this wonderful collection, which she cherished so much, be dispersed so that that new generations of collectors and students of Japanese art could experience at least some of the immense pleasure of acquisition, study and ownership that she had enjoyed."

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