Welcome to Cynthia Shaver Asian Art Appraiser Newsletter July 2022,
One of my more enjoyable jobs last month, was finding homes for approximately 300 pieces of Japanese fukusa, or gift covering cloths. The collection was the result of forty years of one man’s careful study and due diligence, searching out sources and getting ‘good buys’. It includes examples from early 1800’s to late 1900’s, a variety of needle techniques and styles of embroidery, different materials and sizes with a multitude of themes. The collector had a very thorough spreadsheet with dimensions, techniques, age, theme, where purchased and more.
Over the last three decades, I witnessed this collector’s delight over a new find, or to pursue the techniques with various textile scholars. The delight of a collector’s enthusiasm is fun, even a little silly at times, with a view into a personality separate from their professional careers. We all experience the delight when someone else appreciates what we find to be beautiful equally so. A person’s collection, by definition, reflects the quality elements important to the owner, a subjective account. Often the process of donating to a museum can feel like a confirmation of our aesthetics although truthfully the reasons a museum accepts donation or not is not simple but quite complex.
Another client showed me an example of a Korean, early 19th c persimmon wood, stacked clothing chest. These styles came from Tong Yong village at the southern tip of Korea and have very distinctive patterned hardware and use persimmon wood panels boldly. This job led me to the book Korean Chests by Michael Wickman, copyright October 1978. It has information about the furniture and place in Korean culture, who used it, how, who made it, etc. My job was to discuss inherited Asian Art property, and this was part of a two-hour virtual zoom call. In my many years of viewing Asian furniture, I had not seen this distinctive style of Korean wood chest with a symmetrical wood grain front displayed because of the overall grain appearance rather than the brass hardware as most impressive feature. I continue to enjoy my work because my intellectual curiosity is always being challenged.
My last client had the family silver, several repose rice bowls from Thailand, used in the early 1960’s while living there. It was immediately obvious the amount of work versus an ordinary silver bowl found in the common marketplace in Bangkok. There were two large, green with colors, heavy ceramic teapots in shape of “Good Life” character. There was another group of polished black rock Cambodian heads, maybe made in 1960’s when the family visited before the Khmer Rouge. These sculptures were beautiful, as the ethnic identity was shaped into the smooth surface of the head and necks, but finding any information about the figures alluded my search. This too, was a virtual consultation.
I think we are all feeling more comfortable with virtual interviews, lectures, and meetings. Interruptions and disconnects are as common as seeing the cat curled up on the sofa or the dog barking at the door in the background of the setting. I try to start each appointment saying “if we get cut off, I will call back”, to put client at ease with technology that is new to me too.