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Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

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souldeep
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Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby souldeep » Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:38 pm

On this occasion I decided to drive from London to Van Ham (Koln) for a handling session. One of those experiences made all the more interesting by a bout of snow and cold weather as I exited the channel tunnel!

I have taken some photos from the session, and will share on another thread. But I believe this article, and the Kirin, deserves an exclusive thread.

Andreas Platthaus has written an article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung paper entitled Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin). Article link - http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/k ... 18091.html

I have used the translate feature on the forum in the post below for you to read in your own language. I get the impression the writing is more elegant than the translation function suggests. If someone feels they can provide a better translation then we would be honored if you can post your own version.
Last edited by souldeep on Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Dropped Von from authors name
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby souldeep » Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:41 pm

- MOD EDIT - A submitted translation of this German text is provided below - END MOD EDIT

Das Kölner Auktionshaus Van Ham versteigert am 7. Dezember ein Netsuke, das ich drei Jahrzehnte lang nicht vergessen konnte. Begegnung mit einem Kirin, dem tugendsamsten Tier der japanischen Mythologie.

Zum letzten Mal gesehen hatte ich den Kirin vor fast dreißig Jahren: erst auf dem Umschlag eines Katalogs des auf Ostasiatika spezialisierten Kölner Auktionshauses Klefisch und dann in der Versteigerung vom 28. Mai 1988 selbst, als das mit fast zehn Zentimeter ungewöhnlich große Netsuke für den damals unglaublichen Preis von 130 000 Mark zugeschlagen wurde. In der Hand aber hatte ich ihn nie gehalten, das gelang mir erst jetzt in der Wohnung von Trudel Klefisch, die 2013 ihre Tätigkeit als Auktionatorin nach fast fünf Jahrzehnten mit der hundertsten Versteigerung beendet hatte und danach noch als Beraterin für das Haus Van Ham arbeitete, wo diese Tradition und der gute Name fortgeführt wurden. Auch damit aber ist nun Schluss, der Umzug nach München und die Konzentration auf eigene Buch- und Forschungsprojekte stehen für Trudel Klefisch an. Doch für die kommende Auktion mit asiatischer Kunst bei Van Ham am 7. Dezember hat sie noch einmal ein Netsuke-Angebot vermittelt, das auch auf dem internationalen Markt heraussticht. Und das Glanzstück darin ist der Kirin.

Es ist ein frühes Elfenbein-Netsuke, aus dem 18. Jahrhundert, stilistisch wird es einem anonymen Schnitzer aus Kyoto zugeschrieben, der noch andere Kirins gefertigt hat. Diese Fabelwesen werden mit „Einhorn“ übersetzt, aber anders als das im Westen vertraute Tier trägt es sein Horn nicht wie eine gerade Stichwaffe auf der Stirn, sondern gebogen am Hinterkopf. Als tugendhaftes Himmelswesen würde es, anders als sein wehrhafter westlicher Cousin, niemals in einen Kampf eintreten. Die in unseren Augen bedrohliche Haltung und Mimik des Kirins orientiert sich an chinesischen Drachendarstellungen, also am traditionell vorbildlichsten Tier überhaupt.

Ein kunstvoller Gebrauchsgegenstand

Kirins gehören zu den selteneren Motiven unter den Netsuke, jenen figürlich gestalteten Schnurknebeln, mit denen Japaner Tabaktaschen und andere Behältnisse an den Gürteln ihrer Kimonos befestigten. Deshalb weist jedes Netsuke eine mindestens zweifach durchbrochene Gestalt auf, weil die Schnur durch die beiden Öffnungen geführt und dann verschlungen werden konnte. Bei diesem Kirin führt ein ausgehöhlter Tunnel von der linken Flanke bis zum Bauch; die Beine geben dann die zweite Befestigungsmöglichkeit ab.

Dadurch sind Vorder- und Rückseite des Stücks klar bestimmt: Am Eingang des Schnurkanals lag das Netsuke am Gürtel, dem Obi, auf und wurde dadurch rückseitig nicht der Sonne ausgesetzt, während das Elfenbein vorderseitig stark ausgebleicht ist, fast weiß. Eine solche unterschiedliche Färbung nennt man Gebrauchspatina, und sie beweist, dass das betreffende Stück nicht, wie im 19. Jahrhundert häufig, für den Export hergestellt, sondern über Generationen hinweg benutzt wurde. Angesichts der Subtilität der Schnitzarbeit darf man das eine Überraschung nennen, denn dieses Meisterwerk kann man sich eigentlich kaum anders denn als Kabinettstück vorstellen, das für den Alltag zu schade war. Aber offenbar wurde es sehr geliebt.

Bis ins feinste Detail geschnitzt

Die Locken von Mähne und Schweif sind nuancenreich ausgearbeitet, doch das eigentliche Wunder ist das Maul, in dem der Schnitzer die Zähne und vor allem die frei aus dem Rachen herausragende Zunge mit größter Sorgfalt gestaltet hat. Aus jedem Winkel offenbart sich die plastische Qualität des Stücks, das Trudel Klefisch das schönste Netsuke nennt, das sie je zu Gesicht bekommen hat.
Der Sammler, der es vor 29 Jahren bei ihr erwarb, ist unlängst gestorben, und seine Witwe gab aus alter Verbundenheit einige der Glanzstücke seiner Kollektion als Leihgaben in die vor kurzem beendete Netsuke-Ausstellung des Ostasiatischen Museums, die Trudel Klefisch zu ihrem Abschied von Köln kuratiert hat (F.A.Z. vom 2. Oktober). Doch nicht den Kirin, er soll nun einen neuen Eigentümer finden. Darum konnte ich ihn vor der Auktion noch einmal in der Hand halten, denn Netsuke sind aufs Befühlen ebenso ausgelegt wie aufs Betrachten. Dieser Kirin verzaubert beide Sinne. Für das dauerhafte Vergnügen des Umgangs damit dürfte jedoch ein hoher Preis entrichtet werden müssen: Die Schätzung beläuft sich auf 100 000 bis 120 000 Euro. Ob man den Kirin zumindest wiedersehen wird? Vergessen kann man ihn nicht.

This translation into English was provided by a member : :

"On December 7, The Cologne-based auction house Van Ham will offer a netsuke that I have been unable to get out of my head for three decades. Meeting a Kirin, the most virtuous animal in Japanese mythology.

It was almost 30 years ago that I had seen the Kirin : First on the cover of a catalogue of Auction House Klefish, specialist in East Asian Art. Then in the auction of 28 May 1988, where the unusually large Netsuke of nearly 10 cm reached the hammer price of 130.000 German Marks, an unbelievable amount back then. But I had never held it in my hands ; And now, finally, I was able to handle it, at the home of Trudel Klefish, who - after being a successful auctioneer for five decades and organising one hundred auctions - continued her career as a consultant for auction house Van Ham, thus ensuring the tradition and good name.
Alas, that chapter is coming to a close as well : Trudel recently moved to Munich and her focus is now on writing books and on research projects. But for the upcoming auction of Asian art at Van Ham on December 7, once again she will offer a wide array of netsuke, that stands out on the international market. And the highlight is the Kirin.

It is an early Netsuke in Ivory, from the 18th century and stylistically it can be attributed to an anonymous Kyoto carver who has done several Kirin. These mythical creatures are translated as "unicorn", but unlike the animal that is familiar in the West, it does not carry its horn like a straight thrusting on the forehead, but bent over to the back. As a virtuous heavenly being, it would never enter a fight, unlike its defensible western cousin.
Although the Kirin’s posture and facial expression may be perceived as menacing, it is based on Chinese dragon representations, traditionally the most exemplary animal of all.

An artistic commodity

Kirin are among the rarer motifs among netsuke, the figuratively designed toggles, used to suspend Japanese tobacco pouches and other sagemono from the belts of the Japanese men’s kimono. There are two holes in this carving, allowing the cord to pass through. In this Kirin a hollowed tunnel from the left flank leads to the abdomen; A second way to attach the cord would be through the legs.
The front and back of the piece are clearly defined: the netsuke would rest on the belt (obi) and the backside was not exposed to the sun, whereas the ivory front side was strongly bleached, almost white. This difference in coloration is called patina, and it proves that the piece in question was not produced for export, like many of the 19th century netsuke, but instead has been used for generations. This may surprise the reader, given the subtle nature of this carving, as this masterpiece might be seem more as a cabinet piece, too good and vulnerable for everyday use.
But apparently it has been loved very much.

Carved to the finest detail

The curls of the mane and tail are carved in the most subtle way, but the real miracle is the mouth : the carver succeeded brilliantly in forming the teeth and especially the tongue protruding freely. Every angle reveals the plastic quality of the piece, that Trudel Klefisch called the most beautiful netsuke that she has ever seen.
The collector who bought it from her 29 years ago, has recently died and his widow gave some of the gems of his collection as loan pieces for the recently held Netsuke Exhibition at the East Asian Museum. This exhibition was curated by Trudel Klefisch on the occasion of her departure from Cologne. (Frankurter Algemeine Zeitung October 2).
But the Kirin was not amongst these pieces : he is now to find a new owner. That’s why I was able to hold him in my hands one more time before the auction. After all, Netsuke are not only made to admire, but also to be touched and handled. This Kirin is enchanting to both senses.
However, for acquiring the lasting pleasure of having it, a big amount might be required : The estimate amounts to € 100 000 - 120 000 .
Whether one will see the Kirin again or not, one will never forget it ! "
Last edited by ModTeam on Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: added translation
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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souldeep
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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby souldeep » Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:53 pm

Powerful Kirin (unicorn), seated with its head turned back, gazing at the sky. The mouth slightly open, showing its carved, completely free, upturned tongue, and curved corner teeth in the upper jaw framing short, pointed middle teeth in the lower jaw. The horn, as typical for the species, is bent back onto the mane, since having a soft tip it is not used for thrusting, because the virtuous Kirin will harm no creature. The elegant mane with tight curls and strands reaches halfway down the back to where flames blaze horizontally from its shoulders as signs of its celestial provenance. Tiny flames also issue from the foreleg-knees. An impressive large tail reaches up its back, curls and strands of hair alternating symmetrically up either side of the spine, with openwork twice showing the Kirin’s back. All the locks and flames are shown in lively movement. The body is otherwise smooth and hairless, with a few muscles, a segmented neck, and a few vertebrae showing. Its four strong hooves are held together, one slightly raised, since this mythical creature flew rather than ran, so lightly that it could neither bend a blade of grass nor hurt even the tiniest creature, and said to leave only the slightest trace in snow. The unknown Kyôto-carver has endowed this highest-ranking mythical animal of Japan with all the power, beauty, dignity, and majesty which on its rare visits to earth were to reflect and extol the great virtues and power of a great
Netsuke ruler then in office. Ivory, with beautiful golden-yellow in parts amber patina. The marked difference in color between the front and back proves it was worn a lot: the back - not being exposed to sunlight - has a wonderful iridescent and partly transparently shiny surface, while the much paler front was evidently exposed to the bleaching sun. Composition, pose, and details suggest this piece was carved by the same artist as the “Meinertzhagen-Kirin”, cf. MCI, color plate Vol. I, p.V. H.9cm. Condition A.

I think rather than me expanding on the auction description quoted above, or highlighting the features that lend themselves to the hand of Sanko, I will remind you of an excellent thread started by Neil Holton in which he provides a study of Sanko and a attribution of the MK Kirin to the hand. Rosemary Bandini shares a photo of this very Kirin in that thread.

Sorry to all non INS members, but this informative thread is stored inside the members only area. You'll need to join the INS to access it - viewtopic.php?f=12123&t=7264877&hilit=kirin

And so to the pictures. Apologies for the rather bad photography. With no photo table, low light and only a few hours to handle the whole collection, the art suffered.

Click on each one to enlarge for study purposes.

DSCF0291.jpg

DSCF0292.jpg

DSCF0293.jpg

DSCF0294.jpg

DSCF0296.jpg

DSCF0299.jpg
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby Clive » Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:51 pm

"The marked difference in color between the front and back proves it was worn a lot: the back - not being exposed to sunlight - has a wonderful iridescent and partly transparently shiny surface, while the much paler front was evidently exposed to the bleaching sun. "

What a load of bollocks. :roll:

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby jimfowlie » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:20 pm

Clive you are priceless.
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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby dougsanders » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:35 pm

Clive- you beat me to this oft-repeated myth! :) Still, it's a beauty! I wonder how it much different it would have looked when new and all the engraving was there prior to being worn off?
Last edited by dougsanders on Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby souldeep » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:52 am

Thanks for your interpretation. I've removed the translate function that was wrapped around the original German text.

Would you mind adding your excellent translation, as a quote, under the German version in the same post above, then delete this post?
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby souldeep » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:13 am

dougsanders wrote:Clive- you beat me to this oft-repeated myth! :)

Clive, Doug, would one of you be willing to debunk the myth with a technical explanation for our readership?
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby Clive » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:58 am

souldeep wrote:
dougsanders wrote:Clive- you beat me to this oft-repeated myth! :)

Clive, Doug, would one of you be willing to debunk the myth with a technical explanation for our readership?


Martyn.. since I have on many previously occasions provide this forum with detailed technical explanations that comprehensively debunk the bleaching myth... the yellow Kimono myth.. the sat on a yellow painted shelf myth.. the burnt by fire myth and many of the other nonsensical explanations used to explain the difference in colour between the front and back of many old ivory netsuke.. I have reluctantly concluded that reading should only be associated with "our readership" in the most superficial of ways. Perhaps my good friend and brilliant carving colleague Doug might be prepared to have a go...

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Re: Van Ham - Wiedersehen mit einem Einhorn (A love letter to the Kirin)

Postby souldeep » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:20 am

Thanks Clive. Whilst writing my post this morning, I had considered searching for, and sharing, one of the historical threads you had previously written. I discounted it, perhaps too quickly, as I could not remember a recent discussion on the subject. For our newest members (non INS membership), such threads are not accessible.

I understand that it is the different characteristics and qualities in the Ivory that lend themselves to the differences in colouration we can observe. I suspect in this case, the back of the netsuke, displaying a darker colouration, is from the outer layer of the tusk. The front of the netsuke, from the softer inside material of the tusk.

Doug asks the question, what would this have been like when it left the workshop. It's a good question. I wonder for example, if we look into the recesses, that this may have originally had a consistent stain across both sides of the piece. Generations of loving handling since the 18thc appear to have worn down areas of the carving, and eradicated most of the original stain from the exposed areas of the carving.
Last edited by souldeep on Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Clarified what I meant by "outside of the tusk" (outer tusk is a more meaningful term)
Piglet: "Pooh?" Pooh: "Yes, Piglet?" Piglet: "I've been thinking..." Pooh: "That's a very good habit to get into to, Piglet." - A.A. Milne.


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