JAPANESE AND KOREAN ART AT CHRISTIE’S NEW YORK PRESENTS MOST VALUBLE WORKS OFFERED IN THE CATEGORY Commencing the Asia Week sales at Christie’s in New York, the March 18 auction of Japanese and Korean Art will present some of the most valuable works ever offered in the category.
News-Antique.com - Feb 20,2008 - New York — Commencing the Asia Week sales at Christie’s in New York, the March 18
auction of Japanese and Korean Art will present some of the most valuable works ever offered
in the category. A newly discovered wood sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai, the supreme
Buddha, attributed to the sculptor Unkei, is the most valuable work ever offered in the
category (estimate: $1.5 - 2 million). Other highlights are two paintings by Park Sookeun,
the most sought after Korean master, and a collection of approximately 45 lots of Japanese
swords, sword fittings and helmets from The Metropolitan Museum of Art will be sold with
no reserve. With over 450 lots, the sale expects to realize in excess of $7 million U.S. dollars.
Thought to be the work of Unkei, the seated figure of Dainichi Nyorai, the supreme Buddha
of the esoteric pantheon, is preserved in fine condition. Unkei was one of the greatest
carvers of the early Kamakura period (1190s), who received the title of hoin, the highest rank
an artist could achieve. Dainichi is classified as a Buddha, and here he is presented as a
Bodhisattva in princely regalia. Made of Cyprus wood, he sits on lotus position, with hair
piled in a high topknot and wearing the crown and jewelry of royalty. The deity forms a
distinctive hand gesture, called “knowledge fist:” his left hand forms a fist with the index
finger pointing up and grasped by his right hand.
Katsura Yamaguchi, International Director of Japanese and Korean Art said, “Christie’s is
honored to be offering this remarkably rare and newly discovered seated figure of Dainichi
Nyorai, believed to have been made by Unkei, who is regarded as the master carver of the
early Kamakura period.”
The statue is believed to have come from a temple during the Meiji period (1868-1911) when
the government officially adopted Shinto as the state religion. Upon leaving the temple, it
was a part of a prominent family collection in the northern part of the Kanto region. The
statue’s existence was unknown until it was later sold to a Buddhist dealer and bought by the
current owner. Suspecting the figure was hollow inside, the owner approached the curator at
the Tokyo National Museum and it was discovered by X-rays that the figure contains three
dedicatory objects, sealed inside the torso for over 800 years.
The three objects, a wood five–stage pagoda, crystal ball supported by a bronze stand, and a
crystal five-stage pagoda, represent Buddhist symbols and are tied together with bronze wire.
The wooden plague is likely to be inscribed with the date of the dedication and the name of
the temple or donor, as well as the sculptor’s identity.
Other highlights from the Japanese section of the sale include an
early 19th century hanging scroll by Chobunsai Eishi, Beauty
writing a poem on a fan, arguably one of the most beautiful
paintings of the period (illustrated right, estimate: $200,000-
250,000). Depicting a courtesan seated on a mat, and poised to