Jesus as “Savior of the World,” Goa, 18th century, Ivory 4.5 in. (11.43 cm.) high at Kapoor Galleries
Our friends at Kapoor Galleries recently shared with us this delightful ivory carving of a boyish Jesus as “Savior of the World” dating from 18th century Goa, India. While India is generally associated with the Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist religions, Christianity is practiced by a sizable minority making it the third-largest religion in India today (after Hinduism and Islam). According to some traditions, the Christian faith was introduced in the 1st century AD by Thomas the Apostle and is generally believed to have taken hold on the Malabar Coast (Kerala) by the 6th Century. In the early modern era, the Portuguese held sway in the enclave of Goa on India’s western coast from 1510 onward, and many of the local population became Catholic. Christian works of art were produced in Goa’s ivory carving production center, including this Catholic image of Jesus. Here, Jesus is depicted as a child in his role as Salvator Mundi (Latin for ‘Savior of the World’) identified by the orb in his left hand and his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing. He is dressed in sumptuous regalia, and has a rich, warm, deep yellow patina, enhancing the appeal of the piece.
Kaikodo, long an active participant in New York City’s Asian art scene, moved its business and all operations to Onomea Bay on the Big Island of Hawai’i in Autumn 2020. Howard and Mary Ann Rogers founded Kaikodo in Japan in 1983 and around a decade and a half later moved their primary residence to Hawai’i and established a second home and gallery on the Upper East Side in NYC. For the past twenty-five years they have maintained a busy schedule that has had them bouncing back and forth between their home in Hawai’i and the New York gallery with frequent acquisition treks further afield, primarily to Asia. Hawai’i was not only a conveniently located springboard for those buying trips but the center for their research and writing while the gallery was maintained by their peerless director, Carol Conover. Now centralized under one roof on the Big Island and with a modified modus operandi, business goes on! Please do keep watch for Kaikodo’s website updates, notice of new acquisitions, and future issues of Kaikodo Journal as Kaikodo continues to welcome inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org and now also at 808-964-3229.
Cosmetic Set: Lacquer on Fabric, Western Han dynasty (2nd-1st century BCE), Diameter of outer case 8 1/2 in. (21.9 cm)
Panelists: Mary Ann Rogers, Kaikodo LLC, dealers in Asian art Leslie Gat, Objects Conservator and Owner of Art Conservation Group John Twilley, Art Conservation Scientist Thomas Murray, Thomas Murray Asian and Tribal Art
Synopsis of the presentation by Mary Ann Rogers and answers to questions from the audience.
As dealers in Asian works of art, one of our most important jobs is attending to their physical wellbeing. In our presentation on this panel we focused on our experiences with the conservation of Chinese paintings and early Chinese lacquer. A new painting on paper, silk, or satin must go through a process of mounting: pasting it to layers of backing paper to support the fragile material and the addition of borders that serve as frames, resulting in works easy to handle, store, move, and exhibit. The nature of the materials, however, makes paintings vulnerable to their environments and to handling. This can result in discoloration, pigment flaking, creasing, and cracking. Cleaning, repair, and remounting are often necessary. The borders and backing materials are removed, the work washed, old repairs removed, reinforcing or replacing damaged areas with appropriate materials, and new backing papers pasted to the work. Old borders can be reattached or new borders introduced.
Remounting a large horizontal hanging scroll painted by the Yuan master Zhao Mengfu in 1299 was a challenge given its size and the condition of the silk, dappled with mold throughout. The painting’s unusual dimensions suggest it was originally mounted in a freestanding wood frame as a screen and the mold a result of the painting’s continuous exposure. Although the painting is quite presentable, newly developed methods of treating silk might allow for the removal of the mold without impacting the painting itself. The conservation of another 14th-century painting, a style popular in Japan, involved historical and aesthetic considerations. In the course of cleaning, realigning the silk where needed, and minor retouching of the pigments, our Chinese mounters had done an exemplary job. They, however, replaced the original Japanese-style decorative brocade mounting that spoke to the painting’s history in Japan with a neutral-colored silk, in Chinese taste. Fortunately, the original materials had been saved and the painting too when the old mounting was returned to it.
Our greatest challenge, expense and time-wise, was in conserving the early Chinese lacquer that became available to us almost three decades ago. Specialists in the United Kingdom and Germany treated numerous pieces by impregnation with synthetic resigns, freeze-drying and reattaching detached lacquer and, in the case of two rare sets of cosmetic containers, resetting gold and silver appliqué where possible. The fabric-core vessels did not present the same problems as did the waterlogged wood-core pieces that were subject to shrinkage, warping, distortion, and lifting and curling of the surface lacquer. With the development of more efficacious synthetic resins, such negative results might well be prevented. The presence of silver-sprinkled particles discovered in the lacquer of one of these sets revealed the use of this decorative technique in China long before its appearance many centuries later in lacquer wares produced in Japan, the origin of the technique traditionally attributed to the Japanese. Science thus serves not only in conservation but also in widening our understanding through close scrutiny and chance finds, adding to what we art historians provide using our own ways and means.
Some questions and answers about painting and lacquer conservation:
1. Please discuss private access to:
Painting restoration and remounting resources: As scrolls; as flat in Japanese/Chinese style frames
A number of major museums in Asia, Europe and the US have studios or centers devoted to the remounting, restoration and conservation of their Chinese and Japanese paintings and contacting one of these should lead you to the expertise you are seeking for both restoration of your own works and also materials for storage and conservation. You might try the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio associated with the Freer-Sackler in Washington D.C. or the East Asian Conservation Studio at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. There are some private studios with websites online that you might seek out, although not having done business with them, we cannot make recommendations.
Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) Bathing Horses, 1299, horizontal hanging scroll, 35 1/4 x 63 5/8 in. (89.6 x 161.6 cm)
2. How do you decide if a Chinese hanging scroll needs a new mounting, ex: mounting style from Japanese mounting to Chinese mounting?
As suggested during the webinar, you can decide simply by looking at a painting if it should be remounted. On one extreme is the physical condition of the work. If it has developed creases or cracks, if there is evidence of insect damage or rips or tears have appeared, if the silk has become stretched and the threads are no longer aligned, if the painting looks dark or soiled (dirt can be removed but darkening of silk due to age is irreversible) or if a hanging scroll does not hang straight and flat, but rather undulates---if any one or a combination of the above occurs, then the work might need to be remounted. It is, however, a matter of degree and since remounting is not without stress to the painting, if the work does not seem to be seriously compromised or its condition distracting to the viewer, then it might be best to leave it be. At another extreme are historical and aesthetic considerations. The example I used was the Chinese Piling-school painting that had long been in Japan where that painting style has historically been most appreciated. That the painting had been, and we assume for a long period of time, in Japan is reflected in what we think of now as a Japanese-style mounting—characterized by decorative brocades. This mounting style originated in China in the sixth-seventh centuries and was the standard mounting style in China until the time of Zhao Mengfu (the painter of the "screen" I discussed in the power point), whose taste for the simple and unadorned in painting extended also to their mountings. From that time on, that is, in the post-Song-dynasty period, and whereas the Japanese remained attached to the decorative mounting style they had learned from the Chinese, the Chinese themselves, on the other hand, were drawn to the austere, understated style. Therefore, Song paintings are often mounted and are believed to look best in decorative mountings, whereas later paintings—Yuan onward—are best in Chinese style mountings, especially in the eyes of the Chinese. One last consideration is that of personal taste. Sometimes we buy a painting and think the mounting is aesthetically a disaster, reflecting the taste of a former owner maybe 30 or 40 years earlier and that would be reason for a simple, non-invasive job of remounting.
3. Could lacquer boxes be acceptedly exhibited in situ/soaking in water, in a collection?
When the question was asked during the webinar about the feasibility of a museum exhibiting ancient waterlogged Chinese lacquers in water, I was reminded of how extraordinary the pieces looked when we first saw them, submerged in water, and that memory pulled at my heartstrings. As I explained, despite a five-year attempt at restoring one set of boxes, the large exterior container came back to us a ghost of its former self: shrunken and distorted, resulting in the lacquer surface left wrinkled, much having flaked off, and much of its magnificent painted design lost, despite all of the very best efforts of the restorers. However, even though the lacquer was breathtakingly beautiful when submerged in water in its waterlogged state, there is probably no museum curator or director who would entertain even briefly the possibility of taking on the responsibility of caring for lacquer that exists in a kind of purgatory—not lost forever but not reborn, much less actually taking on the responsibility. Waterlogged lacquer while still in water is not in a stable or easily maintainable state. In fact, it is even extremely difficult for museums and private collectors to acquire lacquer that has been successfully treated and proven stable over long periods of time, the fragility of the medium always a matter of concern.
This post is part one of a three part essay about our Webinar, Tales in Conservation. To read part two Click here.
Watch an excerpt from the Tales in Conservation webinar:
Morigami Jin, Sea of Clouds, 2019, madake bamboo, rattan, 19.25 x 18.50 in.
This winter, TAI Modern celebrates the beguiling confluence of light, shadow, and Japanese bamboo art.
The hidden, changing, and transitory shadows invoke curiosity and give the viewer a chance to participate, engage, and experience the work in a different way. Works by Morigami Jin, Endo Gen and Tanabe Chikuunsai IV are particularly remarkable in this respect.
The exhibition will be on view through December 31 in-person at the gallery, supplemented by online exhibitions on taimodern.com and artsy.net.
Kawase Hasui, Ochanomizu from the series Twenty Views of Tokyo 東京二十景, 1926, ôban (39 x 26.1 cm)
A selection of new acquisitions can be found at Egenolf Gallery Japanese Prints. The snow scenes are especially suited to the season and include prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), Hasegawa Sadanobu (1809-79) Chiura Obata (1885-1975), Isshusai Kunikazu (1848-1868) and others.
Ōsumi Yukie, Silver Vase Kaikei (Seascape), 2019
hammered silver with nunomezōgan (textile imprint inlay) decoration in lead and gold
h. 7 7/8 x w. 13 5/8 x d. 12 5/8 in.
20 x 34.5 x 32 cm
The Four Elements in Japanese Arts: Earth, Air, Fire, Water showcases the technical mastery of Contemporary Japanese metalwork artists. Featured artists draw upon the four central elements of earth, air, fire, and water in metalwork creations to communicate core themes and creative visions that ground Japanese art and life. Artists include numerous Living National Treasures as well as master artists.
Contemporary Japanese Porcelain
The selection includes the porcelain works of seven internationally renowned artists, from the subtle elegance of Inoue Manji (b. 1929, Living National Treasure) to the modern Rinpa aesthetics of Imaizumi Imaemon XIV (b. 1962, Living National Treasure).
In the viewing room Osume Yukie: The Soul of Gold offers a glimpse into the insider world of traditional Japanese metalwork from the perspective of a Living National Treasure, in celebration of Ōsumi Yukie’s new book, “The Soul of Gold: Tales from a Japanese Metal Artist’s Studio.”
Stacked Writing Box with Chrysanthemum and Plume Grass (detail), 1910s Maki-e gold lacquer on wood; silver rims and gold pins
Size 3¼ x 9¼ x 5¼ in. (8.5 x 23 x 13 cm)
Golden Treasures: Japanese Lacquer Boxes, is the new online exhibition at Thomsen Gallery and includes 24 lacquer works dating from the 18th century to the present day, on view from now until January 30, 2021.
All of the works are examples of maki-e, which translates to "sprinkled pictures" and refers to the technique of sprinkling powders of gold and silver onto wet lacquer, a distinctly Japanese tradition that first developed in the Heian period (794–1185). In maki-e works, the luminous characteristic of natural lacquer, which gives the impression of capturing and retaining light, is augmented by the brilliance of gold powders and flakes in the brightly polished surfaces.
The exhibition is also on view in the gallery, which is open by appointment only.
GOTO Hideki 後藤秀樹(1973- )
Gray Shino Guinomi No.3 鼠志野貝盃, 2020
H2.3” x W4.1” x D3.1”, H6 x W10.5 x D8cm
With Signed Wood Box
A new exhibition, Finding Moments of Tranquility is on view until December 22nd at Dai Ichi Arts, Ltd.
Comprising a selection of ceramics by various artists including Matsutani Fumio, Shingu Sayaka, Tanaka Tetsuya, Kim Hono, Goto Hideki, Kato Hirotaka among others, the show's special purpose is to bring beauty and tranquility and the excitement of artful expression to viewers during these trying times.
An Emerald and Enamel Gold Ring, Jaipur 19th Century
Susan Ollemans has published an online winter catalogue of her current collection. Comprising over 40 pieces of Asian jewelry and jades dating from the 9th to the 19th century, the selection from India includes a number of jade accoutrements, several miniature portraits and jewelry ranging from bracelets and earrings to pendants and necklaces. Rings, earrings and necklaces from Southeast Asia form another significant group, which is rounded out by earrings and a jade plaque from China.