Japanese Lacquer Box Signed Haritsuo, ca. 1800

Value (2009) | $25,000 Insurance

GUEST:
My father gave this to me. He owned an Asian art goods store in San Francisco. The story behind this one is he told me that one day, a gentleman from the Avery Brundage Asian Art Museum came in and asked if my father would be interested in donating it to the museum. He said he would love to, but unfortunately, he's leaving it to his children. I know very little about it, but I'm curious about what piqued the interest of the curator.

APPRAISER:
What excited me about this, number one, it came with its own box. This is the box that was the carrying case, the container that this box went in. And the inscription here is describing the scene here, which is Chinese boys at play. Now, the latter part of this inscription is the name of the person who made the box. The artisan who made this also wanted to emphasize the bright colors. You've got the lively movement. The bright colors emphasize that. But look at the workmanship. This is gold inlaid lacquer. And it's extremely small pieces of gold foil that are inlaid in lacquer and highlighted with mother-of-pearl.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
Just extraordinarily finely worked detail. The red here is lacquer, with gilt highlights. He could have used hard stones, for instance, for this rock, but instead he used lacquer to depict the rock.

GUEST:
Huh.

APPRAISER:
This is mother-of-pearl from a shell. This is also mother-of-pearl. And it's got either a foil underneath that gives the green color, or it was dyed. Each of the little boys has a lacquered face. It's likely lacquer that has been gilded and painted in very great detail, but also incorporate ceramic bodies.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Some of the clothing is ceramic, some of it's lacquer. So it's this mixture of a lot of different material. And this was done purposely to show the skill of this artisan in making this box. The purpose of this box is it's a writing box. You really don't know that until you take the cover off and you look at the interior. And on the interior, what you see is this, which is what's called an ink stone, and this, which is a water dropper. And this is enamel decorated. It's silver. Now, in my opinion, I think this actually dates to a later period than the box.

GUEST:
Oh, really?

APPRAISER:
Which is not unusual. Sometimes you would have these that would be lost, or they'd be damaged, they'd be replaced. But as we look over here on the cover, this artisan trained under one of the greatest artists in Japan, a man named Ogata Korin, who lived in the late 17th, early 18th century. He was the master of this man, whose name was Ogawa Haritsuo. And he goes by the name Ritsuo. And that's his signature right here.

GUEST:
Oh, okay. Haritsuo lived until 1747-- 1747.

GUEST:
My God.

APPRAISER:
This dull color originally was really brilliant because it was silver. So this is silvered lacquer.

GUEST:
Huh.

APPRAISER:
This is all in low relief, lacquer decoration butterflies on the interior. So this is an extraordinary tour de force of craftsmanship, and that was what Ritsuo was known for.

GUEST:
Wow.

APPRAISER:
And the issue is going to be whether or not this was actually made by Ritsuo, as the lower part of this inscription says, or was it someone who had trained under him, in his style, and made this at a little bit later period. Because of some of the colors that are used in the figures and the way the decoration is done, I'm inclined to believe that this is a follower of Ritsuo, rather than by him.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Nevertheless, an extraordinary example of craftsmanship for a Japanese lacquerwork box. And I would say that you ought to insure this for $25,000.

GUEST:
Really. My father would be very happy.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2009)
$25,000 Insurance
Event
San Jose, CA (August 15, 2009)
Form
Box

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