VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.
During Japan's Kofun (Old Mound) period (mid-third to mid-seventh century AD), agriculture and ceramic production underwent profound changes. The adoption of wet-rice technology and the setting up of agricultural communities were probably the result of invasion rather than immigration. New ceramic technology derived from Korea included high-fired reduced stonewares, called Sue wares, but the most striking ceramics of the time were the amazing pottery effigies that decorated the kofun, the usually very large tombs built for a possibly invading aristocracy. These haniwa [ring of clay] models were placed both outside and inside the tomb.
Cylinders of clay, sometimes several feet tall, bore figures also usually constructed partly of cylinders - men, women, horses, pigs, dogs, monkeys, chickens, ducks, houses or ships. Simple in conception and boldly modelled, these superb figures are wonderfully eye-catching (no doubt part of their original function). They are also most informative to us today: the details of the construction of armour, the shape and decoration of swords, women's clothing and jewellery are likely to be substantially accurate. Figures include probable shamans and serving girls. A fascinating and famous kneeling figure shows that the Japanese sat for formal occasions as they do today, with their feet tucked under and their hands on the floor in front.
Some of the most informative haniwa about the life and customs of those times, both daily and celebratory, are those modelled as ships and houses or granaries, legacies of which can be seen in much later Japanese eras. Horses usually have saddles and bridles, detailed and often decorated as if for some ceremony. Some wear armour (horse armour has itself been found in some tombs). Other animals are frequently found, usually domestic animals, but one of the most famous of all haniwa is the head of a monkey - its simple modelling shows an extraordinary sensitivity.
Being low-fired, few of these pieces have survived intact. Indeed it is astonishing how many of these fantastic and evocative figures can be identified and reconstructed today. As most come from controlled excavations, few are to be seen in Western museums. Only those found before the regulation of excavations have been able to leave Japan.
If haniwa are rare in the West, even more so are the extraordinary eighth-century haji ware bowls that bear painted faces. These are found all over Japan, nearly always near some water source, and are thought to represent the devil of epidemics, who could be confined in such a jar and floated away downstream. The faces bear an unearthly, enigmatic appearance as if sketched by a skilled artist being purposefully crude. This sale also includes a number of pieces of Jomon pottery. For over ten thousand years, Japanese potters made jomon [rope-decorated] pots. An early obsession with surface decoration, much of it made by rolling a piece of rope across the soft clay surface, turned in time into an amazing array of sculptural additions to the hand-built body of the pot. The finest achievements were made in about BC 2500-1500 in central Honshu, Japan's main island.
Dr. Oliver Impey, Senior Assistant Keeper in the Department of Eastern Art, Ashmolean Museum Oxford
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN