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QING DYNASTY (1644-1911)

QING DYNASTY (1644-1911)
The top is set in a square frame above a pierced, scroll-end-shaped waist. The legs are interlinked with stretchers carved with the Eight Buddhist Emblems, bajixiang, joined by humpback stretchers to the feet.
31 1⁄2 in. (80 cm) high, 17 7⁄8 in. (45.5 cm) square
Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo, 13-25 January 1981

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Marco Almeida (安偉達)
Marco Almeida (安偉達) SVP, Senior International Specialist, Head of Department

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Lot Essay

Unyielding Spirit —
The Hosokawa Family Collection

The Hosokawa family is an important family both in politics and arts in the Higo Kumamoto Domain on Kyushu Island, residing in the Kumamoto Castle (fig.1) for 240 years (1632-1871). The family’s initial collecting interests, as with most of the collections of daimyo (feudal lords) families of that period, encompassed a wide variety of art works such as Japanese tea ceremony utensils, Buddhist art, Japanese paintings and swords. As early as the beginning of 19th century, however, it is recorded that the 10th head of the family, Hosokawa Narishige (1755-1835) (fig.2) purchased a series of over 100 Chinese paintings. This is the earliest recorded account of the family’s long history of collecting Chinese art.

After the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, many great families started selling their heirloom treasures collected over the centuries in order to survive. According to Takahashi Soan (1861-1937), a successful businessman and Japanese tea ceremony practitioner, only four families were able to avoid this fate, Hosokawa being one of them. Through entrepreneurship and astute investments in property and modern industry, the family managed to prosper in the Meiji period and amassed a great fortune by the Taisho period. It was then that the 16th head of the family, Hosokawa Moritatsu (1883-1970), began to diversify the family collection to include other Asian works of art. His enthusiasm in art and culture was exemplified by his financial support in major archaeology research. He became known as a Han specialist and was welcomed by scholars, and art dealers in Europe, where he acquired masterpieces of Chinese art. He also helped to formulate the policy on art and cultural heritage in modern Japan.

Moritatsu’s son, the 17th head of the family, Hosokawa Morisada (1912-2005) (fig. 3), was a student of renowned Kyoto-school sinologist Kano- Naoki (1868-1947). In pre-modern Japan, the study of classical Chinese texts was pre-requisite for the Japanese ruling class, but the Hosokawa family continued this tradition well after the Meiji Restoration. The Kyoto school follows the methodology of Kaojuxue (evidential scholarship) established by Qianlong/Jiaqing scholars such as Dai Zhen (1724-1777) and Hui Dong (1697-1758) in emphasizing careful textual study and critical thinking. This training greatly influenced Morisada’s political career. As the executive secretary of the prime minister, he was very critical of the expansionist policy of the then government much to his own risk.
After 1945, Morisada retired from politics and returned home to take over as director of Eisei Bunko (fig. 4), the family museum set up by his father Moritatsu, and also assumed chairmanship of Nihon Kogeikai (Japanese Arts and Crafts Association). The seed cultivated by the Kyoto school in his youth started to grow during this time, and his love for Chinese culture and art led him to collect Chinese paintings, calligraphy and antiques. His training in Kaojuxue also influenced his collecting, as he was critical of the opinions of authority on authenticity, preferring to study and research thoroughly himself before coming to a conclusion. In 1946, the painter Ueda Tangai, a friend of Kano- Naoki, introduced him to a painting dealership Kosetsu-ken, where he made his first purchase, acquiring a landscape scroll by Shen Zhou and a calligraphy scroll by Zhu Yunming. Later, he became acquainted with Hirota Fukosai of Kochukyo, under whose tutelage he began collecting scholar’s objects.

Morisada identifies himself as a literati scholar, and his collecting ethos is very much in keeping with the literati taste of qingqu (delight in purity). It emphasizes the purity of beauty through the five senses that is informed by academic study and life experiences, beauty that is not vulgar or morbid, with an inherent robustness. He compares the Chinese scholar’s aesthetics to ‘burgeoning young leaf buds in spring’, in contrast to that of Japanese aesthetics which inclines to ‘frail and perishing beauty of a withered field at sunset’. Morisada is a great example of a literati collector, in that his aesthetic appreciation corresponds to the integrity of his outlook on life. In politics, he took action in difficult political situations in the spirit of a Chinese literati. In collecting, he seeks out works of art and objects that reflect this same unyielding spirit.

Hosokawa Morisada’s collection has been exhibited multiple times in the Kumamoto Prefecture Museum and Eisei Bunko, and published in numerous catalogues, making these museums important locations for exhibiting Chinese art in Japan. Christie’s is honoured to be entrusted with the sale of thirteen Chinese classical paintings and calligraphy, and nineteen lots of works of art.

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