Spoils of Time Asian Ceramics and Works of Art

Spoils of Time

Yoshiro Zogan Iron Tsuba with Brass Inlaid Algae and Sukashi Mon Decor

March 12, 2018 12:55 pm
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Japanese : Swords and Related

This tusba is of the Yoshiro-zogan style. It issues from the Heianjo-zogan (inlaid tsuba of the so named city in Mino province -  not the jidai [period]) but demonstrates an evolution in design and execution.Yoshiro Zogan Iron Tsuba with Brass Inlaid Algae and Sukashi Mon Decor In both styles, work originating from the Muromachi period were brass inlaid iron. At the time, brass was more scarce than gold and was considered quite valuable - more so according to some literature. The Yoshiro style is named for an artist of Echizen (or Kaga) who worked in the 16th century. While Heianjo-zogan tsuba had inlay higher than the surface of the iron plate, Yoshiro-zogan inaly was comparatively flush with the iron surface of the plate accomplishing a relatively smooth feel. The designs also evolved from the Heianjo to the Yoshiro style. The algae and sukashi mon devices shown here are distinctively Yoshiro-zogan in manner. The sparse missing inlay is actually quite modest and some inlay loss is expected from brass inlaid tsuba from the Muromachi period (1392-1573).

In our catalog:

Kakiemon style Deer and Maple porcelain creamer

October 18, 2012 11:20 am
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Japanese : Porcelain

Kakiemon style Deer and Maple porcelain creamerAn unusual creamer after the Kakiemon Deer and Maple pattern

What do you get after centuries of trade with more than one Asian country to satisfy European demand - one country copying another and even the destination market copying imported wares from its own factories? Sometimes, you get a mystery. And that is what we find ourselves with on this occasion (though perhaps this object is familiar to some) with this (we think 19th century) item held close for several years now.

The pattern of this delightful and colorful creamer originates from 17th century Japanese porcelain production - most famously Kakiemon. We have found only one other such creamer (not as carefully executed) said to be Japanese Kakiemon but we would have to disagree. The pattern gained popularity, also, in Europe after introduction by traders. And demand led to production not only from other kilns in Japan but also in Chinese Export porcelain often filling shortfalls of supply, interruption of production and trade, or price gaps create by diverse demand.

When we encountered the present example several years ago in a country antiques shop, we weren't certain of what production it was though recognizing the Deer and Maple pattern from Japanese examples. Our first sense was that it might be Chinese export given the very fine quality of porcelain, the use of magenta enamels, and lack of accompanying blue decoration. But we soon discounted that as well. That the porcelain holds embossed details and the foot being flat could point to a later Kutani origin. But the European form and (again) the very fine quality could point to Continental Europe where factories also worked to fill demand.

The body is thin enough in its potting to almost insist that it is European after Asian examples. This might also explain earlier (which the creamer seems to be) use of magenta enamel. It appears to be a high fired ware. The raised work might suggest Italian work to some but we do not get that feel. We think, at the moment, 19th century Continental (perhaps German, maybe French.) This may also explain the fawn coloring under the gilding but particularly noticeable along the tree's branches. The use of magenta enamel, areas of grisaille, and the Western form may indicate it was copied from a Chinese export example.

We welcome e-mail from those who might offer more certain attribution.

Thank you kindly in advance.

Japanese Woodblock Memorial Portrait of a Buddhist Monk

June 13, 2012 9:58 pm
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Japanese : Woodblock Prints

Chinese carved cinnabar saucer dish with chrysanthemum decorationWe again attended the Chantilly "Big Flea" this past weekend on Saturday, May 5th (and again arriving several hours after the show began.) We acquired a Qing dynasty carved cinnabar plate and a Showa kakiemon style Koransha vase which we hope to photograph and list soon.

We have also spent a little time working with our last acquisition at the "Big Flea" - the woodblock portrait of a monk. Having translated one row of characters, the sitter is found to be an historical figure. The name reads Shoichi Kokushi. And we believe the remaining characters read Zo (referring to an "image") Myoben.

Shoichi Kokushi was a thirteenth century Tendai monk who studied Rinzai under Japanese Zen master Eisai and then Mahayana Buddhism under the Song dynasty Chinese literati monk Wuzhun Shifan (also Eisai's, who previously traveled to China, mentor.) Shoichi Kokushi returned to Japan and helped found the Tofuku-ji in 1243. (This temple is named in the second row of characters appearing in the inscription.) Shoichi Kokushi is considered an early founder of Zen Buddhism in Japan - his first master, Eisai, never having completely parted with Tendai esoteric Buddhism.

Various sources attribute both Eisai and Shoichi Kokushi with introduction of Chinese green tea to Japan. No doubt both figures contributed to tea culture in Japan, but trade and the taste for things Chinese already assured a place for tea in Japanese culture. They are among few Zen monks, however, who did contribute directly to the tea ceremony with first hand experience from China.

This woodblock print is obviously nowhere near as old as the subject and is likely after a painting of Shoichi Kokushi. It may have originally been part of a series of notable Zen priests.

This week's find - Woodblock Print Buddhist Monk Portrait

April 19, 2012 10:16 pm
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Japanese : Woodblock Prints

Japanese Woodblock Memorial Portrait of a Buddhist MonkThis Woodblock print was our find at the D.C. Big Flea Market

We don't always come back with something. The joy of the hunt is as therapeutic as the thrill of the find. But it does help to make a discovery no matter how modest.

One of the regular local events giving us an excuse to get out and back home with half a day remaining is the D'Amore show in Chantilly, Maryland known as the D.C. Big Flea. It is not one of those higher end shows with abunant potential buys limited only by prices near or at full retail. Rather it is - mostly as the name suggests - a flea market though with a range of dealers and reasonably fair odds of finding a good value.

On this occasion, we came upon this woodblock print soon after arriving (more than 2 hours after the show had begun.) Immediately recognizing from the aisle the sensitivity and pose as a Japanese Buddhist monk portrait, closer scrutiny inside the booth (and the dealer's tag) exposed it for a woodblock print rather than a painting (which we were hoping for) though with sparse, painted details. But not recalling such a subject in this media, along with a reasonable price tag, led us to buy the print after a small discount.

We are by no means woodblock print experts (it is one area we have always been wary of given the obvious learning curve requiring frequent handling) but feel comfortable that this portrait is an unusual subject. Actors, courtesans and sometimes artists and samurai are subjects of woodblock print portraits. And some hasty research after bringing this home confirms that Buddhist monks are not among frequent portrait subjects in woodblock prints. It became clear with review that most woodblock portraits were memorials and some of historical figures. We cannot be sure whether this monk was a contemporary of the woodblock print artist or an historical person of note - possibly after a painting of the same subject.

The framed print retained old, dry and brittle paper sealing the back of the frame job which had obviously not been disturbed for quite some time. Once opened, we found the print's margins had been trimmed to the image area but that condition was quite presentable (note our description for a thorough accounting.) A label with vertical inscription in kanji was adhesed to the backing (we have not yet attempted to translate or secure a reading) which we are not certain if began life in the margin of this print or if added later. A small green stamp is adhesed to the back of the print. We have speculated the stamp may have been a tax (indicating some rate of 40%) or collection stamp - with a blue over-stamped number.

We hope you enjoy our sharing this and our story with you while we research this print ahead of a possible future offering in a Vervendi auction.

Cloisonne Pendant with Meiji and US Flags under Crown

February 12, 2012 7:23 pm
Antiques : Regional Art : Asian : Japanese : Enamel

Cloisonne Pendant with Meiji and US Flags under CrownA mystery item - longest in our possession

I was back from duty with the Air Force in the mid 1980s (getting back in touch with the antiques markets as well as completing my four year degree) when I chanced upon this unusual item from "Evan's Good Ole Stuff" at Columbia Flea Market (I don't think it was the same promoter back then - and better than it was last time I visited.) I picked up a number of good things back then from Evan (I think his last name was "Wolf") including fine lacquer and studio pots. (I remember my young bride trying to open a top quality Makie box in perfect condition as if t was hinged - perfect no more.) Anyway, back to the pendant. We picked this up from Evan maybe the second time we chanced upon him. And we have not since successfully identified it. Every time I am going through the collection and come upon this I wonder. It was obviously fashioned for a specific recognition or event. So maybe putting it out there will find someone who knows a little more that what we already know - that it is 19th century Japanese cloisonne work. We speculate a bit more with the description and additional images (follow the link) but with no conclusions. Feel free to contact us with any helpful thoughts or facts.

Thank you