After a short winter break, the Asian Art auction market resumes in full-force during the month of March. Bidsquare will showcase many Asian-themed auctions, including the highly anticipated Asian Works of Art sale on March 16th at Skinner.
This sale contains over 540 lots from the various regions of Asia including China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, India and the Islamic World. All of the essential categories are covered from ceramics, furniture, porcelain, jade carvings, paintings, textiles, woodblock prints and metalwork.
In the Chinese section of the sale, one of the most impressive pieces is lot 237, a Nephrite Openwork Carving. This endearing scene of two ladies on a heavenly river raft is expertly carved from a fine piece of pale celadon jade. The carving contains numerous auspicious objects that bestow blessings for its owner. The crane and ruyi sceptre both represent longevity, the ram symbolizes prosperity, and the pine tree displays perseverance.
Chinese textiles including robes, fragments and badges are well represented in the Skinner’s auction. The most important item is probably lot 218, an Embroidered Semiformal Robe. This attractive robe contains a group of eight fierce gold threaded dragons on a navy blue ground. Historically, blue dragon robes like this example were worn by a prince of the Chinese imperial court. In addition, the inner collar of the robe has the label of ‘G.T. Marsh and Co, San Francisco.’ Founded in 1876 by George Turner Marsh (1857-1932), this gallery was one of the first in North America to specialize in Asian Art.
One of the more unusual examples of Chinese porcelain from the Skinner’s auction is lot 426, a Square Famille Verte Plaque. Dated to the 19th Century, the color palette is based on earlier examples from the Kangxi Period (1662-1722). The plaque depicts a rare scene from the classic 16th Century Chinese novel ‘Investiture of the Gods’, Fengshen Yanyi 封神演義, which tells the tales of mortals, demons and gods during the 11th Century BC. Here, the fictional general Wen Zhong 聞仲 is seated on his mythical dragon beast and shown in the heat of battle.
In the Korean section of the sale is lot 514, an Eight-Panel Folding Screen. It depicts the birthday celebration of the Daoist Queen Mother of the West, with immortals and numerous deities gathering for a monumental feast. The 19th Century colors of the screen are still vivid, and the numerous details of the figures and background are simply incredible. In addition to their aesthetic function, these folding screens would also have been used as a divider for a large room.
The Japanese section of the Skinner’s auction contains two framed woodblock prints by the famed sosaku-hanga (self-published) woodblock print master Shiko Munakata.
Lot 511 depicts a sumo-wrestling match while lot 512 depicts an outdoor temple scene. Both woodblock prints showcase the use of the artist’s trademark expressionist lines and near-abstract application of colors. They are estimated at $800-$1,000 and $2,000-$3,000 respectively.
Finally, one of the most interesting pieces in the Skinner’s sale is lot 187, a Kobe “Haunted Box” Toy. Possibly part of the Japanese early 20th Century mingei (folk art) movement, this wood toy features a hand crank that animates two friendly ghosts – the top figure pops his head in-and-out of the box while the front figure sticks out his tongue while featuring a dual ‘clubbing action’.
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Anthony Wu is an Asian Art consultant, researcher, writer based in Toronto, Canada. After working eleven years as the Asian Art specialist at two of Canada’s largest regional auctions, he started his own art advising firm where he consults for various auction houses, museums, and private clients in Canada and the USA. He is a certified Chinese Fine Art appraiser with the Appraisers Association of America.