Welcome to Cynthia Shaver Asian Art Appraiser Newsletter October 2018.
Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. I examined, researched, photographed and appraised a group of 17 Japanese bronze Meiji ikebana containers in September. I had never seen these variations before and this is exactly why I love my work.
I walked into the dining room, and on the table were swirling bronze waves, one with a bird resting on the crest of a wave and another with a dragon twisted around the waves. Some waves were 6” long, but others were 15” long and had multiple pieces, fitting into one another. This bronze wave part was purely decorative with a bowl balanced amid the swirls for arranging the flowers. Waves in the manner of Hokusai, ‘style of’ was how the fiduciary described the movement of the waves. Somehow in my nearly forty years involved in Asian Art I had never come across something like these containers. I was stunned to see these bronze parts, quite fussy with angles and detail. At first glance, the property seemed at conflict with idea of simple flower arrangement. The water bowl, balanced on a wave or a claw of the dragon, separates the floral from the hard structure of the bronze. With reading I came to an understanding.
The research led me to the library at the Asian Art Museum where I started reading about Meiji(1868-1912) bronze. The metal artists of Japan wanted to show their skills during the Meiji period, to invite export orders, and made elaborate pieces for the various World Fairs from Belgium to London to Paris to Chicago to St Louis to San Francisco.
While researching the inventory for the World’s Fairs, I came across a photo of a container that had swirling bronze waves with a swimming carp done in 1878 for Paris. Seeing works from different countries made an impression on the Japanese. They wanted to show their skills and artistry to the world. During this artistic explosion metal craftsman created amazing bronze ikebana containers that had swirling waves, with carp or birds, some with scrolling dragons.
After never coming across a Meiji bronze swirling ikebana container before, that day and for the week following, I was immersed in 17 different examples. I love my job, there is always something new to discover.
Another inspection of a large (~4’ x 6’) Chinese watercolor of peony revealed another part of history, or art history, to me. This large painting was stored at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City during World War II. It was the second work of art that I had encountered since 2005 that had this particular provenance. There were letters suggesting this was the reason the art was in the museum rather than on view or as inventory. There is a thesis, or another film for someone to research: What art was stored in The Metropolitan Museum of Art during World War II?
Enjoy the month.