Last Treasures from The Wrangham Collection come to Bonhams
Remaining pieces from a world-renowned collection of Japanese art, the majority offered without reserve

On 19 July Bonhams will offer The Last Treasures from the Edward Wrangham Collection of Japanese Art at Bonhams New Bond Street, London. This 230-lot sale is the final chapter in a series of single-owner auctions held at Bonhams from 2010 to 2015, following Edward Wrangham's death in 2009. All lots estimated at £3,000 and below will be sold without reserve.

The majority of the masterpieces on offer are inro: miniature interlocking lacquered cases worn suspended at the waist in lieu of pockets by affluent urban males during Japan's Edo period (1615-1868). The top lot is an inro by Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), widely considered the greatest lacquer artist of all time, with an estimate of £25,000 - 30,000.

Director of Bonhams Japanese Department and Head of Sale, Suzannah Yip, commented: 'Among the many Western enthusiasts who have collected inro and other masterpieces of Japanese lacquer with such passion and commitment over the past 150 years, Edward ("Ted") Wrangham stands out on account of his pioneering scholarship and unerring eye. To Ted, each of his more than 1,000 inro was a cultural microcosm, carefully selected for its quality, originality, and contribution to our understanding of a fascinating aspect of Japanese art. This will be the final opportunity to follow in his footsteps and participate in a unique collecting heritage.'

Highlights of the sale include:

• A Black-Lacquer Three-Case Inro by Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), 19th Century. Estimate: £25,000 - 30,000.

• A Fine and Rare Black-lacquer Three-case Saya (Sheath) Inro by Kanshosai Toyo, 19th Century. Estimate: £7,000 - 8,000.

• A Fine Gold-and-Black-Lacquer Five-Case Inro, by Hon'ami Shoetsu, after Yamaguchi Soken, 19th century. Estimate: £14,000 - 16,000.

• A Complete Set of Twelve Ceramic Three-Case Inro by Ogata Ken'ya II (1853-1923), late 19th century. Estimate: £10,000 - 12,000.

• A Lacquered Wood Koro (Incense Burner) in the Form of an Elephant, Attributed to Ogawa Haritsu (Ritsuo, 1663-1747), 18th Century. Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000.

• A Fine Gold-lacquer Suzuribako (Box for Writing Utensils) With en-suite Cover, 17th/18th century. Estimate: £8,000 - 9,000.

Edward A. Wrangham OBE (1928-2009)

Born in London, Ted Wrangham grew up in Yorkshire in the north of England; his great-great-grandfather was William Wilberforce, famous for his role in the abolition of slavery. Ted was educated at Eton and Cambridge, where he read English, and in the late 1940s helped found the Alpine Climbing Group— he was even interviewed for the British expedition to Mount Everest in 1953. In 1957 he took to farming on the family estate in Northumberland. He campaigned for the protection of the environment in the northeast of England and played a key role in the creation of Kielder Water reservoir, in recognition of which he was later awarded the Order of the British Empire.

His tastes were greatly influenced by his uncle William ('Billy') Winkworth and his grandfather Stephen Winkworth, a legendary English connoisseur of Asian art who presented Ted with his first netsuke in 1938, when he was only eight years old. Although Ted was fascinated by both Chinese and Japanese art, it would be the study of Japanese inro as a whole—the techniques of their production, the biographies of their makers and (as he himself commented) 'the by-ways of the art'—that most ignited his enthusiasm. His scholarly contribution to what was then a relatively unknown field was acknowledged in the first dedicated exhibition of inro in the United Kingdom, held at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, in 1972. His reference book The Index of Inro Artists (1995) is considered one of the most important English-language studies on Japanese lacquer ever published.

28 July 2021

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