Japanese Masterworks that captured heart of Royal Collector

An outstanding Royal collection, containing lacquer work created by some of the most acclaimed artists to emerge in Japan during the Edo and Meiji Periods, will be offered at Bonhams Masterpieces of Japanese art from a Royal Collection sale on Thursday 7 November at New Bond Street.

Among the highlights are a strong selection of masterpieces produced during the lifetime of Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), one of Japan's most revered Lacquer artists. Leading the sale is a wood panel depicting a scene based of the Noh play Hachi no ki shows a farmhouse in the snow at Sano. The panel from the Meiji era,1883, has an estimate of £300,000-500,000.

Another highlight is Shibata Zeshin's paulownia-wood door, Door with Autumn Maple-Viewing Scene, decorated in gold, silver, red, brown and black takamaki-e. The panel was shortlisted for the 'Asian Art in London' prize in 2015 and has an estimate of £150,000-200,000.

The sale also includes examples of Zeshin's much loved inrō (miniature medicine cases). One example, formerly in the legendary Vever and Greenfield Collections, is shaped as a rustic hut containing a box decorated with Shōki the Demon-queller in pursuit of his quarry. Famous among Zeshin enthusiasts the world over, this inrō is estimated at £60,000-80,000.

Director of Bonhams Japanese Art, Suzannah Yip said, "The fact that so many fine works by Shibata Zeshin are grouped together in one auction is unprecedented. This outstanding collection brilliantly illustrates not merely the diverse talent of the artist, but also the sharp eye of the distinguished collector".

Other highlights in the sale include:

• A model of an iron articulated snake from the Taisho (1912-1926) or Showa (1926-1989) era by Tanaka Tadayoshi. Made circa 1915, it has an estimate of £100,000-150,000.

• Zansaisage or Tonkotsu (Container for food scraps) decorated in gold with an illustration of a stable at night by Shibata Zeshin. Estimate: £60,000-80,000.

• Inrō that has antique mirrors on each side, and one of the mirrors holds a dragon design. The box, which is decorated in black maki-e, has an estimate of £40,000-60,000.

• Urushi-e (Lacquer painting) shows a peaceful scene of a farmer's house in early spring. From the Meiji era, dated 1888, the painting has an estimate of £30,000-50,000.

Highlights of the collection will also be on exhibition at Bonhams Hong Kong from the 9-11 October 2019.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelry. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.


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