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Bonhams to mark 400th anniversary of first Japanese art auction with special sale

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To mark the 400th anniversary of the first auction of Japanese art in Britain, Bonhams is to hold a sale of Japanese export art in December 2014 at its headquarters, 101 New Bond Street, London.

The Clove, a ship of the English East India Company, left England in April 1611 under the command of Captain John Saris, bearing gifts, including a telescope, for the Japanese shogun. It arrived in Japan in June 1613 and after a successful encounter with the country's rulers left in December of the same year with a return cargo including two suits of armour and ten pairs of screens, gifts from the shogun to King James I, as well as a group of lacquer wares which were sold at auction on December 20 1614. This is believed to be the first auction of Japanese works of art ever held in London.
 
To celebrate this epic voyage – at the time the longest ever undertaken by a British merchant ship – Bonhams will hold a sale featuring artifacts made during Japan's four centuries of trade with Europe, including export lacquers in the Portuguese style current in 1614; later lacquers and porcelain for the Dutch trade; woodblock prints featuring foreign visitors to Japan; and Japanese works of art of all kinds including foreign imagery in their designs.
 
The 1614 sale was a candle-auction, with bids accepted so long as an inch of lighted candle remained alight, but Bonhams will be conducting this sale in the conventional manner
 
Suzannah Yip, Bonhams’ director of Japanese art, says: “This astonishing sale in 1614 was a milestone in East West cultural and commercial relations. So it seems appropriate that a trading pattern established four centuries ago should be celebrated by recreating the spirit and content of the auction originally held in London.”

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