Japanese Komai Iron & Gold Vase, ca. 1890

Value (2015) | $80,000 Auction$100,000 Auction
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GUEST:
My sister, who is now divorced, this and another one was purchased by her husband's grandmother in the early 1900s in a Park Avenue antique store in New York. When they divorced, my sister ended up with both of them, and she gave me one. She believed they were from Japan. Her ex-husband did say they were very valuable.

APPRAISER:
Yes.

GUEST:
We were hoping that was true.

APPRAISER:
Well, we're going to find out. So the first thing that strikes one about it is they're metal.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
They're heavy.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
It's got an extraordinarily large amount of detail and very fine quality workmanship, and it's really amazing when you look at it close up. For instance, on the front, you'll see this kind of cartouche shape outline that encloses a scene having to do with Buddhist mythology. But as we look around to the side and see this extraordinary pattern, it's kind of almost diaper, each of which contains geometric, foliate, figural, all types of designs. And then we go to this side, and a continuation again of this mythological scene with references that would have strong references to somebody who's familiar with Japanese mythology. But also, it's in high relief, so there's a real sense of depth and distance, and it gives it a sense of liveliness and vitality. And the combination of that with the varying colors, which come from inlay, and different materials, including gold...

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
...really makes this an object that can be enjoyed from a distance and close up. Now, coming back here to the front, we also have some more information here beyond just the workmanship, and it is a type of workmanship that we see in Japan. And we see right down here, we have a little rectangle that basically says, "Komai, made west of Kyoto," in reference to a company called the Komai Company, K-O-M-A-I. The Meiji Dynasty extended from 1868 to 1912. During that time, there was a period of dramatic change in Japan. You had a system that had been based largely on a feudalistic system that was becoming part of the world stage economically, politically, and all different types of ways. And Komai was an interesting man because he was a metallurgist. He made things in iron, which is what this is made of, and it's inlaid iron with various materials, exactly the same kind of thing that he would have used to create the various elements that would be associated with making swords. So he took this skill and he transferred it to decorative works of art. You can see almost any one of these little cartouches, these little panels, in themselves could have been a unique work of art. I estimate that this was probably made 1890 to 1900, somewhere in that time frame. So do you have any ideas about what kind of value this might have?

GUEST:
No.

APPRAISER:
You must have some idea.

GUEST:
No, I don't, I really don't.

APPRAISER:
Well, then you might be a little surprised when I say it's worth about $80,000 to $100,000 at auction.

GUEST:
Really? Really? We have two of them. We have a matching one. $80,000 to $100,000?

APPRAISER:
That's right.

GUEST:
I can't bel... oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
The market is very, very strong, so I think it tends to overlook something that's relatively minor, such as a small hole in the base, which happened when it was made into a lamp. It's always hard to speculate on what the value of something would be as a pair, but there's certainly more value as a pair than a single. Based on the latest market trends, I'd have to say somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 at auction, for the pair.

GUEST:
Whoa, okay. Wonderful news. I almost want to cry. My sister's going to faint when I call her.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2015)
$80,000 Auction$100,000 Auction
Event
Charleston, SC (August 08, 2015)
Category
Asian Arts
Form
Vase
Material
Metal

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