Published 4th April 2012
Amongst the numerous objects in the Works of Art section of our forthcoming Fine Art Sale on 18th and 19th April 2012, one word can be used to characterise many of them - Ivory. Ivory has been used around the world over thousands of years for ornament and decoration and examples of work from Japan, China, India and Europe, are all represented.
Starting in the Far East, there is a stunning example of Japanese artistry with a tusk vase, decorated with carved and stained images of the three wise monkeys, 29cm high and estimated at £2,000-£3,000.
Another perennial favourite is the okimono, a Japanese term for 'ornament for display' and of particular interest is the carved ivory study of Gama Sennin or the "Toad Immortal", based in Japanese legend our figure is decorated with toads and even has one climbing on his head. The figure is carved from a solid ivory tusk and stands 20cm high, the estimate is £1,000-£1,500.
Moving on to China and Canton in particular, the next ivory piece is a brise fan. Produced in the mid to late 19th century, these fans were exported to Europe in their thousands. Each intricately carved and pierced leaf built up to give a wonderful picture of figures walking in a garden and pagoda landscape. Occasionally carved to one side, the better fans are carved on both sides. With the emergence of China as a growing market place, these fans have become highly sought after and there are several examples in the sale with estimates ranging from £200 up to £500.
Working back towards Europe our next stop is India, again another emerging market place. One item stands out and that is an early 19th century chess set carved in ivory. Both sides are left in their natural colour with only the bases on one side being stained green to differentiate them. However the one big difference between the two sides is in the pawns and this difference reflects India's history. One side has pawns carved as musketed infantrymen whilst the other side is carved as native Sepoys carrying swords. The set probably depicting the power struggle of the East India Company over the local population, and together with a Sadali inlaid chess board carries an estimate of £1,500-£2,000.
To bring us back into the 20th century and Europe, the final piece is an Art Deco period cold painted bronze and ivory figure of 'Pierette' by one of the top sculptors Ferdinand Preiss. Mounted on an onyx base, the young girl is modelled wearing a pleated dress and ruff, with a conical hat and stands 18cm high. This highly popular figure is estimated at £1,500-£2,000.