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  • Thumbnail for Senju Bridge by Night, front view
    Senju Bridge by Night, front view by Shoda Koho

    Yet another print from the Hasegawa series of night scenes, this one foregrounds lantern-carrying pedestrians and a portable shop crossing the silhouetted bridge, with glimmers of light on a distant shore beyond passing boats.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Kodzuka handle with crescent moon and sea waves design
    Japanese Kodzuka handle with crescent moon and sea waves design

    The Edo or Tokugawa era of Japan witnessed an unprecedented flourish of many art forms. The rise of the samurai culture and the political fermentation of this unsettling time brought out with them a modern return of the dolmen style of the art of the Japanese sword. The styles of decoration and the variety of materials used in swordsmiths form a quintessential element of the Japanese literature. Japan's wealth of artistic creation demonstrates its interest in small things and the detailed treatments of them, giving evidence of remarkable skill and taste. For centuries, Japanese swordsmiths devoted their excellence in the art of decoration the samurai's sword-furniture. As part of the warrior's most unseparated possession, the Kodzuka functions as a handle or grip or hilt of the small ko-gatana knives. This iron Japanese Kodzuka is one of the finest representatives of the Edo Japanese decorative sword accessories. The etching style and the abstract delicacy are doubtlessly from the last great master swordsmith Kano Natsuo (1828-1898) or his pupils. The influence of Zen Buddhism of the time eloquently manifests in Natuo's unique choice of motifs and unsurpassed style (from the Otsuki School). His etching style has a distinctive sense of elegance, austere, reserved, and never overflowing. There is an intentional consistency of manipulating a commanding void that dominates the whole composition. The decorative elements employed are conceptual and minimal motifs derived from nature. This Kodzuka has the common plain oblong shape. Its outer face is sophisticatedly designed with a bold relief-etching (takabori or high carving) or raised decoration of a gold crescent moon in the background, partly eclipsed by stylized tidal waves. Some scattered gold dots on top of the waves hint the splashed foam. The Japanese have such great reverence of the force of nature such as big waves (tsunami). On the back of the piece, there are three Japanese characters meaning 'the nature of wild waves' (read from the bottum up). The waves occupy only the bottom right space of the Kodzuka, leaving a powerful void. The abstract and simplicity of this remarkable composition magnificently counteracts and redeems the sense of austerity of the handle. Its balanced yet asymmetrical layout signifies the philosophy of the samurai class: the dynamic between 'configuration/principle' and the 'material energy/vital force'. Objects like this are widely collected as works of art.

  • Thumbnail for Jue or Libation Cup
    Jue or Libation Cup

    Late Shang period to early Western Zhou is often referred to as the 'Period of Brilliance' that marks the high point of Chinese Bronze Age, due to a relatively stability created by central political power. It was the era where the Jue form of ritual wine-drinking vessels was most encountered. The strong sense of spirituality and the feeling of peace of the time are well expressed in this remarkable Jue. Jue is one of the ritual wine-drinking bronze vessels for the elite class, exclusively in sacrifices and rituals. It was used to warm wine for libation. The stiff and compact body carries a sense of refrainment with a flat bottom, supported by three blade-shaped legs. The raised tail and restrained spout transform the Jue to a lively upright bird ready to soar upwards. The short rectangular posts are flat on the outer face and rounded on the inner face; they are uneven because one had been broken and insecurely mended with some white substance. The fractured joints between the body and the post caps indicate that they were casted separately. They stand on opposite sides of the rim, holding conical finials bearing a whirligig pattern carved in sunken incised lines; less visible on one post, due to heavy corrosion. The limited decoration of the vessel focuses on the upper section of the body with a narrow and single register, ornamented with a tiger motif rising from the background of dense spirals lei-wen (or 'thunder pattern'). It is bordered with a small repetitive circle motif and bisected by a flat handle, accentuated by a head of an archaic dragon. As part of the late Shang bronze ornaments, this combination of abstract animal figurative, geometrical form, and the lei-wen, almost always represents the conjuration of a cosmological myth. There are visible flaws on the ornament band and behind the handle. The seams are more visible on the outer faces, especially at the band of decoration. The Jue projects a sense of fierceness and reverent awe, due to the effects of the restrained decoration and the simplicity of the design. Prehistoric bronzes, as in the case of this vessel, were mostly found from large hoards or graves, evidently indicated on the inner and outer surfaces covered with emerald-green patina and traces of earthy incrustation. Its exceptional exquisiteness lies in the sense of austerity in shape and design, the aesthetic sense of technical gaucherie and the rough encrustation of beautiful emerald-green patina on the surface formed during centuries of burial.

  • Thumbnail for Chrysanthemums and Birds by Rock
    Chrysanthemums and Birds by Rock by Zhang, Gun

    Chinese hanging scroll with vertically-oriented painting and a bronze-colored brocade silk mounting. The image is 33 cm x 120 cm and has dry, lively brush strokes illustrating an autumn scene of flowering chrysanthemum emerging from a deeply worn rock with two birds 'fighting' while a third bird perches above.

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 2
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 2 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for Portrait, full view
    Portrait, full view by Unknown

    19th century portrait depicting a subject seated in a garden by a stream, chrysanthemum in a vase and a pine tree. The chrysanthemum in the vase symbolizes autumn while the pine tree represents longevity. The image area is 67cm x 130.5 cm and was made using Chinese ink and colors on paper in a silk mounting. The subject and artiistic style are reminiscent of the famous artist, Ren Xiong (1820-1864). Ren Xiong and his family members were successful commercial painters in Shanghai and nearby regions and skilled in many subjects, including portraiture.

  • Thumbnail for Cormorant Fishing, front view
    Cormorant Fishing, front view by Arai Yoshimune

    From the Hasegawa series. Flames of the fishing boat are obscured by the fisherman’s net, framed by a bridge silhouetted above. Another good example of shin-hanga.

  • Thumbnail for Nanko hanging scroll, full view
    Nanko hanging scroll, full view by Gakusen, Obe

    Japanese hanging scroll with vertically-oriented painting and a dark grey-blue mounting. The image area is 27 cm x 87.5 cm and depicts a Nanga school southern Chinese style with a scene of mountains in close proximity. Also known as “Haruku Kon†and “Tani Buncho,†Nanko studied Chinese painting in Nagasaki, where Chinese artists served as cultural envoys between China and Japan from the 17th century. The Nagasaki school mainly followed the southern school of the Ming and Qing eras and subjects were limited to landscapes. Nanko received commissions to execute paintings for the Imperial Palace. Although considered a Japanese painter, this instance of Nanko’s work is in one variant of the Chinese Nanga style, imitating the mi-dot brush stroke popular during the Sung dynasty.

  • Thumbnail for Street Drama, characters
    Street Drama, characters by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    Horizontal Japanese Ukiyo-e print; two panels from probable triptych; black and polychrome woodblock print on paper; various seals of Kuniyoshi, including “Ichiyosai†(a style name of Kuniyoshi). Artist is known for his depictions of heroic episodes in Japanese history. In his later work he tended to have a taste for the bizarre and the ghoulish. His work is influenced by European models, and in this work, the background has some degree of vanishing-point perspective. The works of Kuniyoshi are collected by many museums around the world, including Metropolitan of New York, Boston, San Francisco, Cleveland, The British Museum London, and the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City.

  • Thumbnail for Port in Early Dawn, front view
    Port in Early Dawn, front view by Kawanishi Hide

    Another representation of Kawanishi’s home town, with a glowing buoy setting off the distant lighthouse and dark mountain, this print is a good example of the style.

  • Thumbnail for Pipa Song
    Pipa Song by Jiang Yun

    Horizontal Chinese painting; ink and colors on paper; 38.8 cm x 24.3 cm; lady and lute on covered barge, only mast and lanterns of another barge are visible, with willow, pine, and blossoming trees. Jiang Yun’s painting was a token of friendship, responding to a friend’s request. The subject is based on the famous Tang era poem, Lyrics of the Pipa (Lute) by Bai Juyi (772-846 C.E.).

  • Thumbnail for Immortal of Longevity and Deer
    Immortal of Longevity and Deer by Unknown

    Chinese painting using ink and colors on silk; image area 18 cm x 21.2 cm; subject from Daoist or folk belief;. Condition: good; upper end of mounting torn.

  • Thumbnail for Silk embroider depicting Ouyang Hai pushing an artillery-laden horse off the tracks before an oncoming train (detail horse)
    Silk embroider depicting Ouyang Hai pushing an artillery-laden horse off the tracks before an oncoming train (detail horse) by Yang Shengrong

    Silk embroidery is today supported by the Chinese government. As in the past, it is not unusual for an existing painting to be copied in embroidery. In this instance, the painting represents one of the mythical heroes of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), Ouyang Hai. He reputedly shoved a frightened horse laden with artillery off the tracks in front of an oncoming train. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1975), PLA heroes, actual or fictitious, became part of the government propaganda machine and were to serve as role models for the people. To advertise their heroic deeds, they were commemorated in all artistic media: paintings, prints, sculptures. This particular depiction of Ouyang Hai was originally created as a painting in 1964 by Yang Shengrong.

  • Thumbnail for Silk embroider depicting Ouyang Hai pushing an artillery-laden horse off the tracks before an oncoming train
    Silk embroider depicting Ouyang Hai pushing an artillery-laden horse off the tracks before an oncoming train by Yang Shengrong

    Silk embroidery is today supported by the Chinese government. As in the past, it is not unusual for an existing painting to be copied in embroidery. In this instance, the painting represents one of the mythical heroes of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), Ouyang Hai. He reputedly shoved a frightened horse laden with artillery off the tracks in front of an oncoming train. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1975), PLA heroes, actual or fictitious, became part of the government propaganda machine and were to serve as role models for the people. To advertise their heroic deeds, they were commemorated in all artistic media: paintings, prints, sculptures. This particular depiction of Ouyang Hai was originally created as a painting in 1964 by Yang Shengrong.

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 17
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 17 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 4
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 4 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for Landscape
    Landscape by Pu Ju

    Vertical landscape done in the blue and green style, with small pavilion on a rocky outcropping above man in small boat below. Four line inscription links the foreground imagery with that of the far distance. Three seals placed at varying points on the painting.

  • Thumbnail for Pathway to a Shrine, front view
    Pathway to a Shrine, front view by Kobayashi Eijir?

    Appears from the size and paper quality to also come from the Hasegawa set. The view, looking out of a shrine gateway toward distant houses, with a full moon floating above, is lyrical and evocative.

  • Thumbnail for Narcissus and Fungus, characters
    Narcissus and Fungus, characters by Wu Shouxian

    Chinese hanging scroll with vertically-oriented painting; black ink and red on paper; image area 31 cm x 132.5 cm; brocade frame, flush roller with brocade ends; red fungus (mushrooms) regarded as the plant of long life or immortality and symbol of the good; calligraphy, three seals.

  • Thumbnail for Popular woodblock prints: pair of civil official door gods (2)
    Popular woodblock prints: pair of civil official door gods (2)

    Colored woodblock prints of popular images are associated with popular religious beliefs and ceremonies mostly observed at Chinese lunar New Year. Pairs of images of civilian officials holding auspicious symbols conveying wishes for happiness and prosperity were pasted on doors inside the house.

  • Thumbnail for Popular woodblock prints: pair of auspicious boys (1)
    Popular woodblock prints: pair of auspicious boys (1)

    Colored woodblock prints of popular images are associated with popular religious beliefs and ceremonies mostly observed at Chinese lunar New Year. Prints depicting boys wheeling in riches by the wheelbarrow load expressed wishes for accumulated wealth in the family and were appropriate decorations for interior doors.

  • Thumbnail for Painting of shrimp
    Painting of shrimp by Ch’i Pai-shih (Qi Baishi) (1863-1957)

    (Part of a set of four) Qi Baishi (1863-1957) is perhaps China’s most revered master of the twentieth century. These four paintings are representative of Qi’s floral, fruit and aquatic subjects. The cascading forms, bright colors and strong sense of abstract design in the compositions are characteristic of his style.

  • Thumbnail for Pair of platform shoes worn by Manchu women (side detail)
    Pair of platform shoes worn by Manchu women (side detail)

    Shoes for bound feet of Chinese women contrast with the “platform†shoes worn by Manchu women, who did not bind their feet. These platform shoes, it is said, enabled Manchu women to imitate the seductive sway of Chinese women with bound feet. The decoration on these shoes is appliqué, not embroidery.

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 13
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 13 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 12
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 12 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).