Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855

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Lot 2*
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891) SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER 砂張盆写菓子器
Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855

Sold for £ 21,250 (US$ 26,767) inc. premium
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891) SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER 砂張盆写菓子器
Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
A roughly circular dish modelled in imitation of a hammered-pewter platter, the thin paper body lacquered in a mixture of charcoal powder, orpiment (arsenic sulphide), bengara (red iron oxide), and powdered tin, the somewhat uneven rim relieved by pairs of small incisions at irregular intervals, the reverse of the rim with shallow scalloped decoration, the base with a nest of concentric squares

Signed in subori on the base Zeshin 是真

20.4–20.8 cm (8–8¼ in.) diameter

Fitted wooden tomobako storage box inscribed, probably by Zeshin himself, Seikaibon utsushi 青海盆ウツシ (Copy of a seikai tray), and with two Japanese auction slips (4)

Footnotes

  • A very similar dish, shown in the 2012 exhibition at the Nezu Museum and dated to 1855, was accompanied by a fitted wooden tomobako box inscribed by Zeshin to the effect that it was a 'copy of a sahari tray', alluding to the historic metal alloy of that name, akin to Western pewter, made from copper, lead, and tin (Nezu Bijutsukan 2012, cat. no. 63). Microscopic examination of the present dish, carried out by lacquer historian Takao Yō, has revealed the mix of powders in sahari-nuri to lie somewhere between those used for seidō-nuri (imitating bronze) and those used for shibuichi-nuri (imitating shibuichi); Takao speculates that the preparation of the paper base and the application of the undercoats played an even more important part than the final maki-e in achieving the look of sahari.

    As well as reproducing the mottled, subdued colours and somewhat irregular oxidized surface characteristic of earlier metal prototypes, Zeshin mimicks the chiselled marks seen on metal dishes used in the tea ceremony, themselves close copies of pewter dishes brought to Japan by European sailors from the sixteenth century. The title inscribed on the storage box accompanying this example, 'Copy of a seikai (literally, "blue sea") tray', may be an allusion to this exotic origin. In addition to the example in the Nezu Museum mentioned above, there is a sahari-nuri dish in the Edson Collection (see Izzard 2007, cat. no. 29 and Yasumura 2009, cat. no. E-16), and about another four examples are known (Takao 2011a, p. 13, figs. 22, 23).

    Zeshin's ingenuity in this medium was admired in the West even during his lifetime, the British commentator Ernest Hart noting in 1886 that he had 'with infinite cunning, imitated the colour and patina of old bronze' (Hart 1887, p. 23); his success in creating sahari-nuri was also noted in a posthumous imperial eulogy (Earle 1996, p. 50). Not content simply with making dishes in imitation of pewter, Zeshin sometimes illustrated them in his urushi-e paintings: for an example from the Misumi Collection, see our catalogue The Misumi Collection: Important Works of Lacquer Art and Painting: Part 1, 5 November 2014, lot no. 11.
Contacts
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真 (1807–1891)  SWEET DISH IMITATING PEWTER  砂張盆写菓子器 Edo period (1615–1868), circa 1855
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