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Bronze ‘jewel of Japan’ is one of finest Meiji works of art ever seen by antiques expert

Posted on 01/12/2020 in Press Coverage

A centuries-old bronze vase bearing the mark of a master Japanese craftsman has been hailed as one of the finest Meiji-period works of art ever seen by an antiques expert.

The rare vase, circa 1870, bears the seal of celebrated master bronze craftsman Momose Shigesato who was born in 1819. It is due to be sold by Hansons Auctioneers on December 10 with an estimate of £8,000-£12,000.

Adrian Rathbone, Head of Fine Arts at Hansons’ country house saleroom, Bishton Hall in Staffordshire, said: “This is an exceptional piece, a bronze jewel of Japan. The Japanese Meiji period, which lasted from 1868-1912, was the equivalent of the UK’s Victorian era. It was a time of exceptional craftsmanship in all aspects of the decorative arts.

“The finest Japanese bronzes of this period are true works of art and I have handled many examples over the years. This piece has to be the finest example I have seen outside a museum. Another excellent example of Shigesato’s work resides in the Walters Art Museum in the USA.

“From cloisonne, jade and ivory to wood carvings, lacquer, shibayama and of course bronze, new levels of skill were developed and perfected during the Meiji period. This coincided with the craze for all thing Japanese in the West in the late 19th Century.

“The wealthy and fashionable set at the time filled their home with fans, fabrics and ebonised furniture and some even dressed in Japanese attire.”

Crafted in gilt bronze, the 150-year old object boasts a fine hammered finish to the extended rim. The handles are zoomorphic - in the form of beasts. A detailed geometric ground throughout frames two panels in high relief. One panel depicts a gentleman with bound branches and the other an infant seated playing a flute beside a basket. Below is a knop with a coiled dragon which is raised on a reticulated platform supported by wave-form feet on a circular plinth.

The vase, which bears the seal mark of Momose Shigesato on the underside, is thought to have been specially made as an exhibition piece circa 1870. It is being offered from the private collection of G.S. May Esquire, a UK-based private client who bought the piece for his collection.

The vase is due to be sold in Hansons’ Christmas Country House Fine Art and Library Auction at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire on December 10. For further information, please contact Adrian Rathbone on 01889 882397 or email [email protected]