Fri, 3rd Dec 2021 13:00

Fine Japanese Art

 
Lot 125
 

125

A VERY EARLY AND IMPORTANT SILK PAINTING OF BENZAITEN, C. 1400

Sold for €11,376

including Buyer's Premium


Lot details

Sealed Sekkyakushi
Japan, c. 1400, Muromachi period (1336-1573)

Masterfully painted with ink, watercolors, and gold on finely woven thin silk. Depicting Benzaiten seated on a rocky outcrop above crashing waves and amid billowing clouds. Wearing colorful and voluminous robes, richly adorned with elaborate jewelry and playing a large biwa painted with a tiger in bamboo. An attendant is seated below her playing a transverse flute. The lower left with a large red seal: Sekkyakushi 赤脚子. Sekkyakushi was a Zen priest and painter of the Muromachi Period. As a follower of Kichizan Mincho (1352-1432), he belonged to the painting atelier of the Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto.

SIZE 72 x 39.5 cm (image) and 82 x 47 cm (incl. frame) (Matted and framed behind glass)

Condition: Excellent condition with minor old wear, soiling, creasing, small tears, losses, some with minor old repairs and touchups. Absolutely commensurate with the high age and overall better than typically expected.
Provenance: Breuer Auctions, Berlin, 1929, catalogue number 327 (according to collector notes). Prof. Dr. Hermann Schröder, Aachen, Germany, acquired from the above, probably via intermediate ownerships. Thence by descent within the same family. The reverse with an ancient cardboard label inscribed: “Göttin Benten (Sarasvati), Frau Brahmas, in fürstlicher Tracht auf einem Felsen sitzend, mit Biwa auf dem Schoß u. Flöte spielender Begleiterin. Nr. 327 Kat. Auktion Breuer, Berlin 1929 (Japan, um 1400)”. Translation: “The Goddess Benten (Saraswati), wife of Brahma, wearing royal robes, seated on a rock, with a biwa in her lap and a flute-playing attendant. No. 327 auction catalog Breuer, Berlin 1929. Japan, around 1400.” The reverse further with two paper printouts referencing a Kamakura period painting of Kannon from Hogon-ji, Shiga, dated to the 14th century, from an exhibition catalog by Museum Rietberg, Zurich.

Benzaiten (also known as Benten) is a Japanese Buddhist goddess who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. The cult reached its pinnacle during the 14th and 15th centuries. Benzaiten is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra and often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute, just as Saraswati holds a veena. Benzaiten is a syncretic entity with both a Buddhist and a Shinto aspect. She is the only female deity among the Seven Lucky Gods (shichifukujin), and is the patron of artists, writers, dancers, and geishas, among others.

Note the raised, gesso-like gilt areas in the present painting, that support the general structure of the design concept, thus enabling a more dynamic and vivid approach to the application of the inks and pastels in the main depiction. This iconic style is typical of the period, as seen for example in a painting with the same subject in the British Museum (see literature comparison), where the strictly horizontal lines of the biwa strings play a similarly crucial role.

Literature comparison:
Compare the raised, gesso-like gilt areas in the present painting with a work showing the same subject and also dated to the 14th century, Muromachi period, in the British Museum (museum number 1924,0714,0.2), where the strictly horizontal gilt lines of the biwa strings play a similarly crucial role.

 

Sealed Sekkyakushi
Japan, c. 1400, Muromachi period (1336-1573)

Masterfully painted with ink, watercolors, and gold on finely woven thin silk. Depicting Benzaiten seated on a rocky outcrop above crashing waves and amid billowing clouds. Wearing colorful and voluminous robes, richly adorned with elaborate jewelry and playing a large biwa painted with a tiger in bamboo. An attendant is seated below her playing a transverse flute. The lower left with a large red seal: Sekkyakushi 赤脚子. Sekkyakushi was a Zen priest and painter of the Muromachi Period. As a follower of Kichizan Mincho (1352-1432), he belonged to the painting atelier of the Tofukuji Temple, Kyoto.

SIZE 72 x 39.5 cm (image) and 82 x 47 cm (incl. frame) (Matted and framed behind glass)

Condition: Excellent condition with minor old wear, soiling, creasing, small tears, losses, some with minor old repairs and touchups. Absolutely commensurate with the high age and overall better than typically expected.
Provenance: Breuer Auctions, Berlin, 1929, catalogue number 327 (according to collector notes). Prof. Dr. Hermann Schröder, Aachen, Germany, acquired from the above, probably via intermediate ownerships. Thence by descent within the same family. The reverse with an ancient cardboard label inscribed: “Göttin Benten (Sarasvati), Frau Brahmas, in fürstlicher Tracht auf einem Felsen sitzend, mit Biwa auf dem Schoß u. Flöte spielender Begleiterin. Nr. 327 Kat. Auktion Breuer, Berlin 1929 (Japan, um 1400)”. Translation: “The Goddess Benten (Saraswati), wife of Brahma, wearing royal robes, seated on a rock, with a biwa in her lap and a flute-playing attendant. No. 327 auction catalog Breuer, Berlin 1929. Japan, around 1400.” The reverse further with two paper printouts referencing a Kamakura period painting of Kannon from Hogon-ji, Shiga, dated to the 14th century, from an exhibition catalog by Museum Rietberg, Zurich.

Benzaiten (also known as Benten) is a Japanese Buddhist goddess who originated from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. Worship of Benzaiten arrived in Japan during the 6th through 8th centuries, mainly via the Chinese translations of the Sutra of Golden Light, which has a section devoted to her. The cult reached its pinnacle during the 14th and 15th centuries. Benzaiten is also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra and often depicted holding a biwa, a traditional Japanese lute, just as Saraswati holds a veena. Benzaiten is a syncretic entity with both a Buddhist and a Shinto aspect. She is the only female deity among the Seven Lucky Gods (shichifukujin), and is the patron of artists, writers, dancers, and geishas, among others.

Note the raised, gesso-like gilt areas in the present painting, that support the general structure of the design concept, thus enabling a more dynamic and vivid approach to the application of the inks and pastels in the main depiction. This iconic style is typical of the period, as seen for example in a painting with the same subject in the British Museum (see literature comparison), where the strictly horizontal lines of the biwa strings play a similarly crucial role.

Literature comparison:
Compare the raised, gesso-like gilt areas in the present painting with a work showing the same subject and also dated to the 14th century, Muromachi period, in the British Museum (museum number 1924,0714,0.2), where the strictly horizontal gilt lines of the biwa strings play a similarly crucial role.

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