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Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

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neilholton
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby neilholton » Fri Jan 06, 2017 2:08 pm

Masanao is a good example of how inconsistent the netsuke world has been in the past. Labelling Masanao of Kyoto as inimitable, the definition of this word, conveys he had no workshop and that no human could imitate his way. (Inimitable. Adjective: incapable of being imitated or copied; surpassing imitation; matchless.) Some would even suggest he was born with his great abilities and his way died with him and that’s that. This is romance and if I have to maintain this fiction to enter into the London dealer club, then please point me towards the exit.

These absolutes which have been thrown at us like a sermon will, I hope, in the end become obsoletes.

Masanao of Kyoto mirrors Masanao of Yamada. There was a Japanese chap called Masanao that started it off, his way was taught to subsequents and then it goes on and on. So as Netsuke ‘people’ we are are willing to accept that this is the way for Masano of Yamada but not for Masano of Kyoto? This philosophy is naive a best.

I am not a signature man, but even if you apply a loose consistency rule to Masanao of Kyoto signatures, they differ. There is a guy called Tomokazu whose signature differs with minute detail and yet there is a general acceptance that there is quite possibly 5 separate Tomokazu artists defined by signature alone. Why has this kind of thinking never been applied to Masanao of Kyoto?

Readjusting our thinking to a signature as a ‘brand’, focuses our attention to the quality of the netsuke for one, and it allows for a more accurate outlook on our beloved art form. Squeezing all those netsuke which have; a Masanao of Kyoto influence, bear a Masanao of Kyoto signature (many of which differ from another) into that Circa 1760-1780 time frame, begs the question; when the hell did this ONE guy get time to even eat?

So, back to the Okame. The owner bought this piece based on the quality of the netsuke, so I think we would all agree that he has absolutely done the right thing. He is not bothered about a Masanao attribution. From what I understand, he, like me to be honest, is confused that you seem to think that the way the netsuke looks now (at least 200 years on) is just not how Masanao did it and thats that - absolute. Where in reality, the way the netsuke looks today is due to time/age and ownership. On this one Oliver, I don’t think it really matters about the Masanao aspect as such as this reality could apply to any artist using these materials. However, if you apply those same absolutes to all netsuke now and in the future, absolutes which are founded on incorrect determination, then in the future auction reports you are going to get more flak and will also be killing a netsuke or two along the way.

I am also having a busy start to the year and have a lot to do. However, I would be very glad to spend more time discussing this subject further as it is part of my job as a Dealer and also my personal passion.

Thanks all for a very enlightening thread.

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AFNetsuke
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby AFNetsuke » Fri Jan 06, 2017 4:53 pm

Vlad, a healthy portion of our membership don't attend conventions or get exposure to hands on top auction previews yet may have interesting collections within their means. There was a period during the Hurtig years when I tired of seeing only the cream of the crop of what he sold his wealthy clients knowing I would never be likely able (actually willing) to buy pieces in the top tier. I'm not suggesting the reviews not include mostly the best on offer but let's not abandon the rest of the legitimate netsuke sphere (and their collectors).

Thank you, Neil, for your willingness to keep on probing these topics and educating us by sharing your views.

Auction houses and dealers now often use the terms "signed by and attributed to" or "signed X but attributed
to" for a reason.
Alan

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Clive
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Clive » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:52 pm

neilholton wrote:Masanao is a good example of how inconsistent the netsuke world has been in the past. Labelling Masanao of Kyoto as inimitable, the definition of this word, conveys he had no workshop and that no human could imitate his way. (Inimitable. Adjective: incapable of being imitated or copied; surpassing imitation; matchless.) Some would even suggest he was born with his great abilities and his way died with him and that’s that. This is romance and if I have to maintain this fiction to enter into the London dealer club, then please point me towards the exit.
These absolutes which have been thrown at us like a sermon will, I hope, in the end become obsoletes.


Well said Neil... lots to pick up on in all of that but if I may just focus on the paragraph quote above and relate it to Oliver's earlier reply in which he set out his objection to the "brand" concept and in particular his following few sentences.. "The distinction most dealers in the London antiques trade (western, tribal and asian) want to make is between the master's hand, studio work and outright fake. To put them all under a branded studio name seems to me to be an apologist argument for a work that isn't quite there but close enough. I don't think the netsuke world is ready for that. When it's great let's call it the master's hand, when it's not quite there let’s call it studio work."

It seems to me that rather than your brand concept, it is the absurd fiction of the master carver who only carved the greatest of netsuke and everything else is simply not by his hand that is profoundly more of an "apologist" argument. I've always thought of an "apologist" is a person who offers argument in defence of something controversial. From a carver's perspective what could be more controversial than the bizarre notion that the greatest carvers somehow didn't learn, evolve and refine their craft but somehow miraculously and spontaneously appeared, knocked out a few masterpieces then poof... disappeared? :shock:

If Oli however means "apologist" in the sense of making excuses... it seems to me little can be more of an apology than the presumption that netsuke collectors can't handle the fact that the greatest carvers were in fact real people and that the fiction is therefore some sort inconvenient necessity... but as we all know full well, the great carvers were real people and their performance ebbed and flowed just as any performer's does.. be they a great athlete, a great concert violinist or indeed anybody who undertakes a highly skilled activity.

To be honest, I'm somewhat surprised that this has all been laid out on the table as it were.. because it so clearly suggest that it's not the netsuke world in general who aren't "quite ready for that" but rather the dealers to whom the old fiction is so integral to their marketing of netsuke.

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Vlad
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:11 pm

Clive wrote:It seems to me that rather than your brand concept, it is the absurd fiction of the master carver who only carved the greatest of netsuke and everything else is simply not by his hand that is profoundly more of an "apologist" argument. I've always thought of an "apologist" is a person who offers argument in defence of something controversial. From a carver's perspective what could be more controversial than the bizarre notion that the greatest carvers somehow didn't learn, evolve and refine their craft but somehow miraculously and spontaneously appeared, knocked out a few masterpieces then poof... disappeared? :shock:



With one caveat, Clive, if I may - for the Edo period master-carvers carving the best pieces ever is the only thing we know about them, i.e. this is the only attribute of a particular carver at all. We don't even know if those are the ones mentioned in Soken Kisho. I personally think some of them may well not be, but as Oli said, this is the conventional way of attribution these days to distinguish between the all those signed , or "carved in the style of" pieces, before we learn to actually date them accurately, or find archives with records on their works somewhere in the currently closed family archives in Japan...
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Vlad » Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:31 pm

AFNetsuke wrote: I'm not suggesting the reviews not include mostly the best on offer but let's not abandon the rest of the legitimate netsuke sphere (and their collectors).


I shall assume you mean those who also do not have access to computers to see the auction descriptions and results, Alan. Because what else do you really need to say about those pieces in an auction report? Don't we have (and use) other ways of addressing them including in the Journal? I often see articles covering those segments of netsuke, including even articles on "netsuke for $5 a day" by highly respected by me member of our NY Chapter Bob Goode.
I myself in no way am discriminatory of those, having and growing the collection of so called by me "pebbles" of my own, which I love with all my heart. But what does it have to do with the auction reports, particularly since we are currently debating authors also providing personal opinions for educational purposes? What would you expect to hear about those, and what would you then do with the ones 'insulted' by being intentionally, or unintentionally omitted from such review? Are they supposed to be considered not worthy for some "objective and obvious" reasons?
"Man sieht nur, was man weiß" - "One sees only what one knows". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby DSW90049 » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:10 pm

This has been an important and educational thread for discussing
things that we usually don't discuss on this INS Forum, so bravo to all
who have contributed!


First, I think we are remiss in not sincerely thanking Oli for his hard work producing the several INSJ auction report columns which he was written so far, for our consumption. Many tell me how the INSJ auction reports are their favorite part of each INSJ issue, and I must say I agree. Oli, indeed a busy man - and we are being more than a bit presumptuous here in questioning how he spends his time, given that he is a principal of SML Ltd. a 100+ year old UK family-owned, now by the 3rd and 4th generation, Asian art dealer, and one of the leading ones in both London and the world in which our interests here lie - worked very hard to produce those auction reports. Do not judge by word count - the underlying work and the most capable and professional way that Oli approaches it, takes huge time away from his busy tasks at his gallery, including many writing projects and much else that we the public do not necessarily know about - note the four page ad on the Kokusai the Genius three-volume treatise in this INSJ; that treatise did not spring fully forth from the Gods - I watched Paul, Oli, Finn & others work their collective asses off to produce it, and it is truly a milestone in our field which is essential to be found in every library that a collector in this field should have.

Thank you, Oli for your hard work on a continuing project which is terribly difficult.

In the 60's-era Vietnam War in the US Army, the 2nd Lieutenant
was known as the most dangerous role in the jungle fighting.
First up the hill, or over the cliff, to be exposed to the enemy was the 2nd Lieutenant, and he was also, not surprisingly, the most likely, very quickly, to get his head blown off, being the first thing visible for the enemy to shoot at. I like to think of anybody brave enough to take on the role of authoring our INSJ Auction Reports, after Gabor W's outstanding and long tenure, as being our world of netsuke and sagemono's own '2nd Lieutenant.' Oli accepted this role when requested to do it - I applauded him then, and I further applaud him now. None of us would be born into this role and achieve some kind of perfection at it in their first few efforts, as there is a huge learning, and credibility-building process within the hierarchies of respected expertise in this field. No matter what you wind up writing, there are also people among the readership who are locked, loaded and ready to blow off the author/reviewer's head, right here.

Further, it is impossible to please everybody, especially in our little inter-bred, highly intelligent world here.
Repeat: if your goal is to please everybody, you can leave that goal at the same door at which Neil H shed another myth.

Second and last, let's try to view threads like these as being constructive, positive, educational comments. Because nothing Oli can write in the INSJ, or in this Forum, can begin to please all - and I withhold my own personal comments about the subject matter of the discussion in this thread, as I cannot add more to what has been said, and said well here - some of the posts here can be read as holding Oli to an impossible standard.

We all can get a bit passionate posting here - I am the first to plead guilty to that charge - but, let's keep a sense of perspective and give Oli a chance to grow into this massively hard role, to not always be the 2nd Lieutenant, and to work harder to share our knowledge and experience as matter of the respect which we should be giving each other in this self-selected INS community, with a particular appreciation for those who work very hard to provide education for us and for no compensation other than the satisfaction of knowing that they did as good a job as they could in trying to 'give back' to our little community here.

[Climbing down off soapbox now]
"There is no shortcut to netsuke collecting; it takes time, study and patience. The market is flooded with utterly worthless rubbish. . . . "
Netsukes: Their Makers, Use and Meaning, H. Seymour Trower(1898)~~~~David

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Clive
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Re: Auction Report on Okame (Katchen) : views on a Masanao attribution

Postby Clive » Sat Jan 07, 2017 1:12 am

Well.. after that, I guess all there's left to say on this thread is

HAPPY 2017.. Year of the Cock.

137_funky_chicken-300x271.jpg


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