Internationally Recognized Collection of Japanese Netsuke Achieves $1.9 Million at Bonhams New York

New York - The Joseph and Elena Kurstin Collection presented an unrivalled offering of Japanese netsuke at Bonhams New York on December 16, delivering impressive results with many lots selling well-above estimate. The miniature sculptural masterpieces are sought after by enthusiasts worldwide and this was evident throughout the sale, bringing in international bidders and feverish competition on highly sought-after lots from this remarkable collection. The top lot of the sale, a kirin on a cloud, measures just under four inches tall. Despite the diminutive stature, it achieved a world record price for a netsuke, soaring 23 times its estimate at $441,300.

The Kurstin Collection is considered by many to be one of the finest groups of netsuke in the world. Dr. Joseph Kurstin was known to countless enthusiasts in the field, was recognized for his depth of knowledge in netsuke and inrō, and regularly spoke at netsuke conventions worldwide. The Kurstins also generously exhibited their collection at major institutions around the world, from the Yale University Art Gallery in Boston to the Tobacco and Salt Museum in Tokyo.

The 61 lots offered achieved a total of $1.9 million with a 93% sell-through rate and 100% sold by value.

Additional sale highlights:

• A wood netsuke of an Oni (Demon) chanting the Nenbutsu (Invocation to Amida Buddha) by Sanko (active 18th/19th century) sold for twelve times its estimate at $96,100.

• Achieving more than three times its estimate, a wood netsuke of a rat by Masanao of Kyoto (active 18th century) sold for $94,900.

• A rare and important wood netsuke of a Nue by Tametaka (active 18th century) sold for $82,300.

• A rare wood netsuke of a Hakutaku sold for sixteen times its estimate at $81,000.


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