Katsukawa Shunsho, Nine erotic scenes from Secret Games in the Spring Palace (Shungu higi), late 1770s-early 1780s (one of nine) Estimate: $500,000-700,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2009

NEW YORK, NY.- Commencing Christie’s Asian Art Week, Japanese and Korean Art will be offered on March 17, which will include over 170 traditional and modern works of art. The Japanese section of the sale will feature a noteworthy group of paintings of beauty and the erotic, and the Korean section will offer an exquisite group of ceramics including a fine group of scholarly objects.

Japanese Art
An important collection of Ukiyo-E Paintings, including Katsushika Hokusai’s Cooling Off on a Summer Evening, leads the sale (estimate: $800,000-1,000,000). This extremely large painting is thought to have been a special commission for one of Hokusai's most elite clients. It represents his highest quality luxury line, painted on silk and finely detailed. Based on the combination of signature and seal, the painting dates from Hokusai's most critically claimed period, when he was considered to be at the peak of his career.

The collection will also include Katsukawa Shunsho’s Nine erotic scenes from Secret Games in the Spring Palace (Shungu higi), late 1770s-early 1780s (estimate: $500,000-700,000). Originally handscrolls and remounted as ten hanging scrolls in the 1930s, these scenes have been exhibited and published frequently. The paintings of Katsukawa Shunsho rank among the most significant ever produced in Japan and the Nine erotic scenes is one of most spectacular painted works to have survived. Another highlight is Kitagawa Utamaro’s Ehon Komachi-biki, (Picture book: Pulling Komachi), New Year 1802, which is a complete album of twelve illustrations (estimate: $200,000-250,000). This spectacularly colored album is the third and last of the artist's three erotic masterworks.

The cover lot of the sale is Kasuga Shrine Mandala, early 14th century (estimate: $200,000-250,000), a hanging scroll of an iconic map of the sacred grounds of Kasuga Shrine in Nara, set at the base of Mount Mikasa. Featuring an aerial view of a shrine set in a spring landscape with blossoming cherry trees and deer, this fascinating work is intended to evoke an image of a palace in a Shinto paradise. The cult of Kasuga Shrine spread to the provinces by the late twelfth century and its devotees required paintings for worship. Performing devotions in front of the painting was an alternative to undertaking the long journey to the shrine.

The sale will also include a soft-metal inlaid silver presentation vase, created by celebrated artist Unno Shomin in the Meiji Period, circa 1900 (estimate: $100,000-150,000). This monumental silver vase is an example of the finest export work of the later Meiji period. The katakiribori chiselwork of the pine is particularly characteristic of Shomin's work, reflecting both his early study of calligraphy and Natsuo's influence.


A bevelled and moulded blue and white porcelain bottle, Joseon Dynasty (19th century) Estimate: $220,000-280,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2009.

Korean Art
The Korean section presents an elegant and scholarly ensemble of porcelain, lacquer pieces, and traditional and modern paintings. One of the outstanding pieces in the group of porcelain is a quadrangular white porcelain jar, Joseon Dynasty (19th century) (estimate: $300,000-350,000), decorated with a lustrous clear glaze of blue. Also part of this group is a bevelled and molded blue and white porcelain bottle, Joseon Dynasty (19th century), (estimate: $220,000-280,000), decorated with a glossy transparent glaze with random dark blue flecks; and a blue and white porcelain jar, Joseon Dynasty (18th century), painted with imagery of a peach, butterfly, bamboo and a plum branch (right- estimate: $100,000-150,000).

Scholar implements and paintings are well represented in the sale, from an assortment of ink stones to a variety of water droppers in all shapes and colors. The finest examples are a reticulated white porcelain brush holder, Joseon dynasty (estimate: $40,000-60,000), a cylindrical container moulded with arching stalks of lotus and glazed in a distinct blue hue; a white porcelain brush rest, Joseon Dynasty (19th century) (estimate: $80,000-100,000), modeled in the form of the Diamond Mountains, known in Korea as the Geumgang Mountains; and a blue and white rectangular water dropper, Joseon Dynasty (19th century), moulded with two spouts in the form of crouching frogs and painted with insects and orchids (estimate: $20,000-30,000).

Scholar’s accouterments (Ch’aekkori), Anonymous (19th century), is six paintings mounted as a six-panel screen (estimate: $30,000-40,000). Ch'aekkori paintings include books, bronzes, lacquer, boxes of various kinds, porcelain flower vases and bowls of fruit, and writing paraphernalia among other objects. There is literary evidence that this subject became a popular status symbol after King Chongjo (r. 1776-1800) placed one behind his desk in the men's quarters of the palace. Ch'aekkori paintings were also popular among ordinary people and always were painted in bright colors as were folk paintings.

The Korean section also offers a noteworthy group of modern and contemporary art with estimates ranging from $3,000- $100,000. The sale offers a fine selection by established artists including Kim Sou’s Untitled, oil on canvas (estimate: $100,000-150,000) and Kim Whanki’s Mountain and Moon, gouache on paper, 1964 (estimate: $8,000-10,000).