A bell-shaped bronze (dotaku)
American Collectors and Japanese Art Julia Meech Americans have been wild about Japanese art ever since Commodore Perry and his squadron sailed into Tokyo harbor in 1853. In the wake of the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876, and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Victorian America decorated its parlors and bedrooms with a bizarre medley of folding fans, embroidered textiles and porcelain figurines. Soon, serious professionals and fabulously wealthy collectors entered the picture. Some were artists and decorators. Louis Comfort Tiffany had a Japanese room at his home, Laurelton Hall, on Long Island, and a Wunderkammer for the display of Japanese crafts, including 46 sets of leather tobacco pouches and pipe cases. In 1891, Edward C. Moore, the artistic director and chief designer of silver manufacture for Tiffany and Co., bequeathed his large holdings of Japanese baskets, ceramics, textiles and metalwork to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Henry O. Havemeyer, the Sugar King, would stop off at Yamanaka & Co. on his way home from work in the 1880s and buy tea caddies, among other things. His wife, Louisine, was taken aback when he alerted her one morning that a case of “tea jars” would arrive later that day and she should unpack them (fig. 1). ”But what is a tea jar?” I asked innocently. Mr. Havemeyer looked at me curiously, as if amused that my question could puzzle him, and then said frankly: “Well, I don’t know much about them myself. They are little brown jars that hold tea. I guess that covers it, but they are very beautiful, so soft you want to hold them in your hand, and so lovely in color you cannot but admire them; just sober dark brown—but wait and see. I know you will enjoy them—and do as you please with them.” He left me for the excitement of Wall Street while I remained at home and did just as I was told. . . . I opened the case and was surprised to find it contained innumerable small boxes. I opened these small boxes and found they contained each another box inside. Upon opening the second box, I found it had a silk bag and upon undoing the silk bag my little “brownie” revealed itself to me. Like a child with a toy, I soon had rows and rows of brownies about me, while the little boxes were in a heap upon the floor beside me. What pretty, dainty things they appeared to me!” (Louisine Havemeyer, Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector [New York: Privately printed, 1961], pp. 73–74) Americans are philanthropists and many liked to buy art in volume. Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, a New Yorker committed to women’s education, purchased an entire collection of over 2,500 netsuke for the Met in 1910. In Boston, the China trade quite naturally provided a link with Japan. Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow, whose mother’s family had made a fortune in the China trade, traveled and lived in Japan for seven years under the tutelage of Ernest Fenollosa, who was teaching philosophy at Tokyo University in the 1880s and influenced scores of collectors back home. Bigelow saw the advantage of acquiring whole collections, be they Noh robes, sword fittings or woodblock prints (fig. 2). We can imagine that savvy Japanese art dealers were beating a path to his door in Japan. When Henry Adams and the painter John La Farge visited Bigelow in 1886, Adams reported that dealers followed them even on a trip north to Nikko. Pack horses carrying merchandise arrived from as far away as Osaka (we live in the wrong time). The director of the Museum of Fine Arts had the foresight to ask Bigelow, a trustee, to form a comprehensive print collection for the museum. Bigelow carried out his mission, acquiring more than 30,000 prints, with a special strength in early eighteenth-century examples. He gave all the prints to the museum in 1911, along with his 450 ukiyo-e paintings and 15,000 other Chinese and Japanese works of art. In 1890, Fenollosa, himself a collector, became the first curator of Asian art at the MFA, Boston. He had returned with over a thousand Japanese paintings, many now world famous. He sold them to a wealthy Bostonian, Charles Weld, who bequeathed them to the museum in 1911. In Detroit, Charles Freer, who had dropped out of high school to go into the railroad business, collected for the nation. In 1906, following many trips to Asia, he donated 2,250 works to the Smithsonian Institution and funded the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, to house his collection (fig. 3). His earliest purchases included more than 300 Japanese woodblock prints. The graphic power of prints had wide appeal. Frank Lloyd Wright was buying ukiyo-e prints in Chicago long before he made his first trip to Japan in 1903—and we know what happened next. Some 20,000 prints passed through his hands (fig. 4). As he famously said, “If Japanese prints were to be deducted from my education, I don’t know what direction the whole might have taken.” Gardeners played a role. Kendall Brown lists at least forty-five remarkable Japanese-style gardens, often symbols of exotica, spread across North America. Among the earliest is the hill-and-pond garden in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, designed by Takeo Shiota in 1914. In San Marino, California, the Japanese garden that opened at The Huntington in 1928, with its iconic moon bridge and Japanese house, has drawn twenty million appreciative visitors over the years. Museum curators from Okakura Kakuzo to Alan Priest and Sherman E. Lee were on the front line of the hunt for Japanese art. The Seattle curator Xiaojin Wu pointed out the following oral history interview with Lee (http://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu/, pp. 80–81). In 1951, the Tokyo dealer Mayuyama Junkichi (he published his Japanese Art in the West in 1966) cabled Lee at the Seattle Art Museum, asking whether he would be interested in a long section of the Deer Scroll by Hon’ami Koetsu and Tawaraya Sotatsu, at a cost of $5,000. “I went to Dick [Richard Fuller, president of the museum],” Lee recounted, “and Dick said “So much money and it’s a painting. Are you sure it’s okay?” “Dick, for God's sake, this is an absolute once in a lifetime opportunity.” He said, “No. I don't want to do it.” I said, “Let me get back to you.” Because my brain was working all the time. [laughter] I called up Mrs. Frederick (Fay Frederick, widow of Donald E. Frederick, who founded a Seattle-based department store) and said, “I want to show you something. Can I come out right now?” I hopped in the car and went out. I took a reproduction along. She had a pet Sicilian donkey that wandered around the house—she was very fey—and she loved this scroll of deer. I don't care if this was for the right reason or the wrong reason, but she loved it. And I said, “Look, you bought that box for the museum, and Dick was a little bit upset because he really likes that box. It's an object. But he doesn't like this painting. Would you be willing to let him take over the box and you take the scroll? It's $5,000, and we'll have your name on the scroll.” So she said, “Yes.” So I went tooling back to Dick and I said, “Dick, Mrs. Frederick will let you have the box if she can have the scroll. It will be a done deal.” And Dick said, “Okay.” So I cabled Mayuyama and told him to get it right over. He brought it over himself. Today, in Japan, that half of that scroll will be at least $2,000,000 or $3,000,000. It's one of the greatest Japanese painting and calligraphy scrolls outside Japan. But that was Dick with paintings. He just didn't vibrate to them. And Mrs. Frederick vibrated to small donkeys and deer. Influential teachers (John Rosenfield; Miyeko Murase; and Calvin French) educated several generations of American scholars (fig. 5). Knowledgeable art dealers, beginning with the staff of Yamanaka & Co. and Mayuyama Junkichi and including such pioneers as Nat Hammer, Mathias Komor, Howard Hollis, Joseph Seo and Harry Packard, labored to bring treasures to American clients. Packard, in particular, crisscrossed the country in the 1950s and 1960s, often with young art dealers from Japan (fig. 6). The auction houses—first the American Art Galleries/Anderson Galleries, which became Parke-Bernet Galleries (today’s Sotheby’s), and then Christie’s and Bonhams—stimulated the growth of the art market. In the postwar era, new collectors changed the playing field, from Avery Brundage to Mary Griggs Burke, Kimiko and John Powers and Etsuko and Joe Price. Peggy and Richard Danziger have educated Americans to the pleasures of tea culture. Beginning in 1971, Rand Castile supervised 45 exhibitions at Japan Society Gallery in New York, all memorable. Finally, the Japanese Art Society of America (JASA) has expanded to promote all forms of Japanese art and culture. What is the result of these efforts by auction houses, collectors, dealers, curators and educators, all working in tandem? Exceptional works of Japanese art of every discipline are found everywhere in the United States—from historical societies to college collections to leading museums. Here are a few random highlights: a stunning, bell-shaped bronze dotaku dating to the second century from the Avery Brundage Collection in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; nearly lifesize, eighth-century dry lacquer figures of Bonten and Taishakuten, also from the Avery Brundage Collection in the Asian Art Museum; Harry Packard’s eleventh-century bronze Zao Gongen in The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the eleventh-century painting of Daiitoku Myo-o, given to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by William Sturgis Bigelow; Willard Clark’s thirteenth-century wood sculpture of Daiitoku Myo-o in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; The Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace from the thirteenth-century Illustrated Scroll of the Events of the Heiji Period in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the thirteenth-century Sedgwick statue of Shotoku Taishi and its relics in the Harvard Art Museums; the early seventeenth-century Abe family suit of armor and its numerous accessories in the Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas; a Momoyama-period Iga-ware water jar (“Burst Bag”) from the Burke Collection int the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Waves at Matsushima, a pair of screens by Tawaraya Sotatsu in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Charles Freer in 1906; the Koetsu/Sotatsu Deer Scroll in the Seattle Art Museum; the Met’s Hogen and Heiji battle screens, purchased from the dealer Mathias Komor; Hishikawa Moronobu’s A Visit to the Yoshiwara (late 1680s), a 15-meter long handscroll in the John C. Weber Collection; Soga Shohaku’s Four Sages of Mount Shang, a pair of screens in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; paintings of chickens by Ito Jakuchu in the Shin’enkan Collection of Etsuko and Joe Price; the world-renowned Edo-period Noh theater robes given by Lucy Truman Aldrich in 1935 to the RISD Museum, Providence; Roger Weston’s collection of lacquer inro; H. George Mann’s collection of ukiyo-e prints; the 1827 portrait of the gigantic sumo wrestler Ozora Buzaemon by Watanabe Kazan in the Cleveland Museum of Art; the rare, early (pink) impression of Katsushika Hokusai’s 1831 “Red Fuji” in the Smith College Museum of Art; a monumental cloisonné vase with design of chickens and banana leaves by Namikawa Sosuke in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; the René and Carolyn Balcer Collection of pre-earthquake color woodcuts by Kawase Hasui in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Nakamura Daizaburo’s 1930 portrait of a Japanese actress in red kimono on a chaise longue from the Patricia Salmon Collection in the Honolulu Museum of Art; Onchi Koshiro’s 1943 color woodblock print, Portrait of the Poet Hagiwara Sakutaro, from the Oliver Statler Collection at The Art Institute of Chicago; the sculptures of Isamu Noguchi in the Noguchi Museum, Queens, New York; the 1968 “Fragrant Garden” kimono by Living National Treasure Moriguchi Kako in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Nishida Jun’s 3,000-pound porcelaneous stoneware Zetsu No. 8 of 2003 in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Motoda Hisaharu’s 2005 lithograph Indication—Shibuya Center Town in the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College. This spring, The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates American collectors and the centennial of the founding of its department of Asian art; the Burke Collection has been dispersed to the Met and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; and another generation of collectors, including Sylvan Barnet and the late William Burto; the late Richard Fishbein and his widow, Estelle; and Betsy and Robert Feinberg have announced gifts or promised gifts to several East Coast museums. Last but not least, twenty Edo-period calligraphies from the Kimiko and John Powers Collection, most acquired during the 1960s, are on offer at Christie’s in the present sale (lots 19-38). The story continues. Suggested Reading Laura W. Allen, Seduction: Japan’s Floating World The John C. Weber Collection. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2015. Kendall H. Brown, Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America. Tokyo and Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle, 2013. _____ ed. Water and Shadow: Kawase Hasui and Japanese Landscape Prints. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2014. _____ and Sharon A. Minichiello, Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco. Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2001. Rand Castile, “Remembering the Japan Society,” Impressions 28 (2006): 77–99 (www.japaneseartsoc.org). William Hosley, The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America. Exh. cat. Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum, 1990. Clay Lancaster, The Japanese Influence in America. New York City: Walton H. Rawls, 1963. Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy in Art. Washington, DC: Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1993. Julia Meech, “Early Collectors of Japanese Prints and The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 17 (1984): 93–118. ______,"The Other Havemeyer Passion: Collecting Asian Art," in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993, 129–50. ______, Lacquerware from the Weston Collection: A Selection of Inro and Boxes. Exh. cat. New York: Christie's, Inc., 1995. ______, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect’s Other Passion. New York: Harry Abrams and Japan Society Inc., 2001. ______, “The Early Years of Japanese Print Collecting in North America,” Impressions 25 (2003): 15–53 (www.japaneseartsoc.org). ______, “Ukiyo-e Print Collecting in America,” in The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, ed. Amy Reigle Newland. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005. Pp. 402–11. ______, “Tiffany’s Collection of Asian Art at Laurelton Hall,” in Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall: An Artist’s Country Estate. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. Pages 157–75. ______, “Who Was Harry Packard?” Impressions 32 (2011): 83–113 (www.japaneseartsoc.org). ______, “Edwin Grabhorn: Passionate Printer and Print Collector,” in Laura W. Allen and Melissa M. Rinne, eds., The Printer's Eye: Ukiyo-e from the Grabhorn Collection. San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 2013, 11–20. ______, “Following Her Bliss: Mary Griggs Burke (1916–2012),” Impressions 35 (2014): 201–209 (www.japaneseartsoc.org). ______ and Weisberg, Gabriel. Japonisme Comes to America: The Japanese Impact on the Graphic Arts 1876–1925. New York: Abrams, 1990. ______ and Yonemura, Ann. “The Ukiyo-e Society of America: Approaching Thirty-five,” Impressions 27 (2005): 99–109 (www.japaneseartsoc.org). Miyeko Murase et al., Art though a Lifetime: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. 2 vols. New York: Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2013. John M. Rosenfield and Shujiro Shimada, Traditions of Japanese Art: Selections from the Kimiko and John Powers Collection. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970. _____ in collaboration with Fumiko E. Cranston, Extraordinary Persons: Works by Eccentric, Nonconformist Japanese Artists of the Early Modern Era (1580–1868) in the Collection of Kimiko and John Powers. 3 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 1999. Tsuji Nobuo et al., Japanese Masterworks from the Price Collection. Washington, DC: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 2007. Property from a Private Collection
A bell-shaped bronze (dotaku)


A bell-shaped bronze (dotaku)
Yayoi period (1st - 3rd century)
Cast as a bell with arch-shaped handle, the hollow body designed with rows of horizontal and vertical bands filled with crosshatch diagonal pattern and continuous whirlpool patterns, applied with flanges along the sides and an arch across the top, designed with triangular patterns
18 ¾ in. (47.6 cm.) high
With wood box inscribed and dated 1st month 28th day of the Horeki era (1751-63) on reverse side of lid
Nagao Ukichi
Nagao Museum, Osaka, Japan
Osaka Prefectural Senboku archaeological research center, Osakafu no dotaku zuroku (Catalogue of bronze bells in Osaka Prefecture) (Osaka: Osakafu Senboku koko shiryokan, 1986), pls. 52 and 53.

Lot Essay

The dotaku form derives from a small Korean animal bell. Dotaku are not functional; their walls are too thin to sustain being struck. Over time, the bells became larger and assumed magical or ceremonial meaning and purpose. They were buried singly or in groups in isolated locations, perhaps to ensure a community’s agricultural fertility, or to demarcated boundaries for early rulers. Objects of this type were cast in two halves in stone molds.
Fine examples in American collections are in the Avery Brundage Collection at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the latter purchased by the museum in 1918.

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