Issue 53, Winter 2017

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin

"In 1990, an extraordinary manuscript came to light. It wasn't lost exactly. In fact, the family that owned it knew the document was in the attic. However, it was written in Japanese, which the surviving family members couldn't read.

It was only when it was placed in the hands of experts that the true importance of the document was revealed. It was the confession – or perhaps thoughts is a more accurate description – of Emperor Hirohito, transcribed by his translator, Terasaki Hidenari, a senior diplomat who had married an American from Tennessee, Gwen Harold, during a posting in the US. Now referred to as the Dokuhakuroku, the manuscript – described by Barak Kushner on page 34 as "a bombshell" – has been the subject of much analysis, but this is the first time it has come to auction. On 6 December, it will be offered in the Voices of the 20th Century Sale in New York.

The manuscript – written in Japan, but found in the US – is an indication of how art and artefacts move around the globe. Bonhams has salerooms in all four corners of the earth and our specialists constantly evaluate in which region it would be best to offer each work. For instance, two paintings by Fahrelnissa Zeid, whose work is currently at Tate Modern, were in the collection of Princess Alia Al-Hussein and will be offered in London's Modern Middle Eastern Art Sale in November. Mind you, Fahrelnissa had a very cosmopolitan existence – and, as Rachel Spence writes, "an extraordinarily tumultuous existence". Born in Turkey on an island in the Sea of Marmara, Fahrelnissa arrived in Paris in the 1920s, married the Emir of Mecca's son (her second husband) and had a ringside seat at most of the upheavals of the 20th century (she even had tea with Hitler). The re-evaluation of her work has not come too soon.

In our 'Inside Bonhams' feature, India Phillips talks about walking into an apartment in Barcelona and seeing a sensational portrait by Salvador Dalí. As she said, "these are the moments that we specialists live for". The Old Master Department had a similar frisson when a small golden panel was pronounced a work by the 14th-century Venetian master, Lorenzo Veneziano. On page 30, Andrew McKenzie, the department's director, writes about how the work is the crucial link between the hieratic Byzantine style and the flesh-and-blood figures associated with Giotto. It's a golden wonder.

Enjoy the issue."

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 4

    The man who fell to earth

    Emperor Hirohito's explosive war confession revealed the private thoughts of the man who was born a god. Barak Kushner investigates

    The Japanese Emperor Hirohito died in January 1989. Discussion about his responsibility for WWII had waned over the decades of peace that followed. However, within a year, everyone was talking about his 'monologue', Dokuhakuroku as it is known in ...

  2. Page 10

    My favourite room
    Alexandra Shulman

    Alexandra Shulman watches the world from Claridge's lobby

    I have the writer Kay Thompson's creation, Eloise, to thank for my love of hotels. Certainly it is nothing to do with my personal earliest experience of staying in a gloomy place in Westgate-on-Sea, where I used to be sent as a small child for summer holidays.

    Eloise lived on ...

  3. Lorenzo Veneziano (active Venice, 1356-1379) The Crucifixion

    Page 12

    Sublime aura

    A newly discovered work by the great 14th-century artist, Lorenzo Veneziano, shows the crucial move from the flat Byzantine style to the flesh-and-blood figures of Giotto, says Andrew McKenzie

    A magnificent, newly discovered devotional altarpiece has come to light. For the last century, it had been the property of the same Italophile English family and concealed from the eyes of ...

  4. Page 16

    Horse power

    For 70 years, Ferrari has made the sexiest, most-prized sports cars in the world. Mark Beech revs up the engine

    Automotive history might have been very different had Enzo Ferrari not seen a motor race when he was just ten years old – and had his father's business not collapsed a few years later. The story is certainly one to ...

  5. Fahr El-Nissa Zeid (Turkish, 1900-1991) Portrait of King Hussein of Jordan (Eternal Youth)

    Page 22

    Zeid geist

    The privileged Fahrelnissa Zeid lived her life with the history-makers of the 20th century. But her legacy is these bold paintings of great vibrancy. Rachel Spence tells her story

    For Fahrelnissa Zeid, the turning point of her career came with a rejection. Just 27 years old, studying in Paris, the Turkish painter watched in horror as her teacher, Cubist artist ...

  6. Page 29

    I, Robot

    Robby the Robot was a star, from the moment he first appeared in the 1950s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet. Matthew Sweet goes back to the future

    The year is 2257 AD. The place: beyond the limits of our solar system. Commander J. J. Adams is at the helm of United Planets Cruiser C-57D as it makes landfall on the planet ...

  7. Page 40

    French connection

    The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a staggering new museum, built on a desert island. Its director, Manuel Rabaté, shares his lofty ambitions with Claire Wrathall

    In their mission statements, most national museums use the lofty term: 'encyclopaedic'. If anything, Manuel Rabaté, the 41-year-old director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, ratchets things up a notch. He claims it will be "the ...

  8. Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno 1659-1734 Venice) The Holy Family

    Page 44

    Poisoned chalice

    Sentenced to death – twice – Sebastiano Ricci was the bad boy of Baroque art. Susan Moore explains how a brush with the law was the making of the Venetian master

    By the time Sebastiano Ricci died in Venice in 1734, he was one of the most celebrated painters in Europe. He had also been one of the most peripatetic, constantly on ...

  9. Page 46

    Snap chat

    Bruce Berman – movie mogul behind The Matrix and Ocean's Eleven – has a passion. Hugo Daniel hears about his enduring love of American photography

    The first-time visitor stepping into the headquarters of Village Roadshow Pictures might find themselves pausing to double-check the address. Where are all the glossy film posters? The walls are hung instead with dozens of striking images ...

  10. Page 47

    One painter, two countries

    Zao Wou-Ki only began to feel truly Chinese when he left his homeland. This was the secret of his success, argues Matthew Wilcox

    Who is the most successful Chinese artist? You might think of radical dissident Ai Weiwei, you might consider the merits of the pyrotechnic pioneer Cai Guo-Qiang, or you might reach further back, perhaps as far as the ...

  11. Page 53

    Hail, Burgundy!

    The harvest finally turned in Burgundy's favour this year. Good news for the vintners, says Roy Richards, but not necessarily for drinkers

    There is a smile back on the face of the Burgundian vigneron. After five years of harvests deficient in volume, Nature has finally been generous in 2017. Other parts of viticultural France, hit by frost damage, are ...

  12. Page 66

    Saint David?

    David Jones was the greatest watercolourist since Blake, says A.N. Wilson, who here unlocks the secrets of one of his finest paintings

    David Jones (1895-1974) is perhaps best known, among a devoted but too small band of admirers, as a stone engraver. He was taught by the sculptor-craftsman Eric Gill, and earned his living for some years engraving the ...

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