Auction - Box by Asahi Gyokuzan coming up at Bonhams

A rare and important early 20th century cosmetic box by Asahi Gyokuzan is one of the highlights of the Fine Japanese Art sale, taking place on May 12 at Bonhams London. Asahi Gyokuzan was a designated Imperial Court Artist and one of the most famous and influential carvers in Japan during the Meiji Period (1868-1912).

The cosmetic box made of white paulownia wood, estimated to sell for £200,000 – 250,000, represents the hallmark of the finest Japanese art: the depiction of the transience of nature. The decoration both on the outside and inside of the box encapsulates the changing seasons. Asahi Gyokuzan deliberately used the medium of a box, since it can be opened and closed, and in doing so created a series of stories and movement: the stages of the flowering Chrysanthemums representing Autumn, the flying birds on the inside of the box, and the light droplets of water, inlaid in mother-of-pearl. The basic five elements are represented, the wood of the box itself, the birds that represent the wind, the earth from which the flowers grow, and the water represented by fine drops of water on top of pebbles and the metal used for the handles.

An English private collection of Japanese fans will also be offered by Bonhams. The exquisite collection includes twenty-five lots, ranging from tanto (dagger) fans that consist of a metal dagger and sheath in the form of a closed fan to an intricately carved ivory folding fan estimated.