SHIBATA ZESHIN: AN IMPORTANT ALBUM OF FIVE LACQUER PAINTINGS DEPICTING THE GOSEKKU (FIVE CHIEF FESTIVALS OF JAPAN)
By Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), each painting with Zeshin's artist signature and seal Zeshin or Koman
Japan, c. 1880, Meiji period (1868-1912)
The album containing five masterful urushi-e (lacquer) paintings depicting the five chief festivals in Japan (Gosekku) with a finely embroidered silk cover featuring floral designs and stylized phoenixes, each page of board covered in gold paper, bound in orihon (concertina) format closed on one side, the paintings arranged one per opening on the left-hand side and comprising:
Album leaf 1: Oshogatsu, the New-Year's Festival. New year's day showing a Kemari ball and shuttlecock for the Hanetsuki game.
Signed: Zeshin with seal Zeshin 是真
Album leaf 2: Hinamatsuri, the Doll's Festival, held on the third day of the third month. Showing the shell-matching game (Kai awase)
Signed: Zeshin with seal Zeshin 是真
Album leaf 3: Shobu no Sekku, the Boys' Festival, held on the fifth day of the fifth month. Depicting a kabuto helmet and irises (shobu)
Signed: Zeshin 是真with seal Koma 古満
Album leaf 4: Tanabata, the itomaki and wrapped silk-mulberry leaves are associated with the Tanabata Festival held on the seventh day of the seventh month when the stars Altair (the Herd Boy) and Vega (the Weaver Girl), separated on either side of the Milky Way as a punishment for neglecting their duties, are allowed to meet.
Signed: Zeshin with seal Zeshin 是真
Album leaf 5: Kiku no Sekku, the Chrysanthemum Festival, held on the ninth day of the ninth month showing a bunch of small chrysanthemum flowers (kogiku) wrapped in the noshigami, and a cricket (koorogi) sitting beside it.
Signed: Zeshin with seal Zeshin 是真
The album cover with an applied gold paper label:
Gosseku no zu [The painting of the Five Festivals] 五節句圖
Zeshin shinseki [Authentic work of Zeshin] 是真々蹟
With the original double-boxing. The larger red-lacquered box with a piece of paper on the side of the box: 是真、五節句帖 “Zeshin, Gosekku cho” [The Album of the Five Festivals, Zeshin].
The smaller hakogaki (storage box) inscribed on the cover in the front 対柳居 是真筆 “Tairyukyo Zeshin hitsu” [Painted by Zeshin, art name Tairyukyo] and on the inside cover with an attestation by the chief pupil of Zeshin: 精々軒、竹真證、Seal: 真 “Seiseiken, Chikushin sho, with a seal Shin (of Chikushin)” [Examined and attested by Chikushin, art name Seiseiken]
Shoji Chikushin (1854-1936) was a leading pupil of Zeshin who often signed boxes authenticating his work.
SIZE 19.2 x 11 cm
Condition: Very good condition. The album with some evidence of worm damage, however no damage to the lacquer. Some minor creases and wear as are to be expected.
Provenance: Collection of an English Gentleman acquired at Sotheby's London in the 1980s/1990s (by repute).
Shibata Zeshin (March 15, 1807 - July 13, 1891) was a Japanese lacquer artist and painter of the late Edo period and early Meiji era. He has been called "Japan's greatest lacquerer". His work, unlike the oils being used by so many of his contemporaries, never need re-touching and never faded. He was a master of emulating oil or ink painting with lacquer and combined groundbreaking techniques with traditional subjects. The present album is an exemplary work of this 'revolutionary traditionalism' with a somewhat minimalist approach to the subject of the five festivals, without too much fuss but with a remarkable aesthetic quality and superb craftsmanship of lacquer which has kept its freshness of color and vibrancy to this very day.
A similar album with six leaves, yet of miniature format, was sold at Bonhams, Fine Japanese Art, 11 May 2017, London, lot 179 (sold for 22,500 GBP). Another album of similar size with twelve leaves was sold at Christie's, Japanese and Korean Art, New York, lot 690 (sold for 339,750 USD). Also compare to a complete set of five lacquer tanzaku (poem cards), also showing the Gosseku, was sold at Bonhams, The Edward Wrangham Collection of Japanese Art Part VI, 10 November 2015, London, lot 159 (sold for 25,000 GBP).
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Tags: Edo, Meiji Period, Edo Period, Meiji Era, Shibata Zeshin