A carved ivory figure of a Shishi, €14,000 (£12,175) at Hargesheimer.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

When everything comes together, prices can go way over the estimates. Two such carvings were up for grabs in the auction.

Both came from the collection of Fritz Niescher, an industrialist from Chemnitz, whose legacy was the source of high-flying Art Nouveau objects in Hargesheimer’s September auction (ATG No 2613).

First up this time around was the intricately carved ivory figure of a Shishi, the so-called lion protector, a combination of lion and dog often to be found as a statue guarding Buddhist temples. It was signed Tomotada, a renowned craftsman who was active in Kyoto in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but about whom next to nothing is known.

Bidding started at €1200 and was concluded at €14,000 (£12,175) with a European buyer emerging victorious.


A figure of a standing Sennin, €12,000 (£10,435) at Hargesheimer.

Another success story was the 4in (10cm) high figure of a standing Sennin, a scholar, holy man or hermit. The gourd he is holding identifies him as Chōkarō Sennin; the sage’s magic gourd contained a horse or mule which, when released, enabled him to travel thousands of miles a day without needing food or rest.

The figure was carved in sishiki technique, meaning that it was made lacquered wood.

The style can be closely associated to that of the 18th century master Ogawa Haritsu who was famous for his lacquer work. A German buyer secured the carving for €12,000 (£10,435), ten times the estimate.