Inro abounds at Bonhams Japanese art sale

wikicollecting

2015-06-26 11:04:31

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Inro abounds at Bonhams Japanese art sale

Japanese inro collectors are in for a treat at Bonhams on November 6th.

The wonderful inro and pipe case collection of Dr Henry Potter Stevens (1975-1965) presents 59 lots for sale at their Japanese Art auction.

Inro are traditional Japanese cases for holding small objects, designed to hang from the sash in place of a pocket. They consist of a stack of small nested boxes, laced together with a cord and toggle, and were often used to carry identity seals and medicines.

Henry Potter Stevens’ first inro purchase was made in 1944, the start of a collecting passion that would span the next two decades. This was at a time when museum collections of inro were as scarce as published information on the subject, and inro were considered, rather than items of great decorative art, as merely oriental curios. While having its drawbacks, this general ignorance and disinterest provided a fruitful ground for collectors such as Stevens, as pieces of oriental art were both abundant and affordable.

Dr Henry Potter Stevens was a prominent rubber chemist, and published two academic books: The Paper Mill chemist (1908) and Rubber (1915). He was also a successful watercolour painter, and several of his artworks were exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Stevens was a scholarly collector, employing an intellectual system of scientific classification to his collection. Some of his records are present alongside the inro being offered at Bonhams. His collection extended to Chinese art, scientific instruments and gentlemen’s accessories.

Several of the captivating inro offered on November 6th come with a high estimate of £800, though some more special examples are expected to fetch up to £2,000 or £3,000.

The anticipated top seller among the collection is a fine gold lacquer four-case inro by Ganshosai Shunsui, late 19th century Meiji period, valued at £10,000-£15,000. This is closely followed by a silver lacquer five-case inro by Hara Yoyusai, early 19th century, and a gold lacquer four-case inro by Koma Kyuhaku, 19th century, valued at £8,000-£10,000 a piece.

Six lots of 19th century Japanese kiseruzutsu, or pipecases, are also included.

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