The Khalili Collections are proud to announce the reuniting of a landmark Japanese garniture, last seen in complete formation over 120 years ago at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which attracted 27 million visitors, which at the time was almost half the American population.
The eight feet tall vases (2.44m) dubbed at the time ‘the largest examples of cloisonné enamel ever made’, took five years to complete and were commissioned by Shin Shinwoda, the Special Councillor for Arts of the Imperial Commission to the Exposition, with the manufacturing trusted to Shirozayemon Suzuki of Yokohama and Seizayemon Tsunekawa of Nagoya. The greatest artisans of the period were employed in their creation – with an all-star team of the most celebrated artists including Araki Kampo (1831-1915) and Oda Kyōsai (1845- 1912) overseeing the designs. Upon completion, the Emperor of Japan had subsequently reviewed them ahead of the exposition.
The acquisition of the first vase was in the early 1990s in Los Angeles. The Khalili Collections had over the course of the next three decades sought relentlessly to reunite the complete garniture. The centrepiece was eventually found and purchased in Japan in early 2000, with the previous owners being Hirose Atsushi at the Tokyo National Museum. The location of the last vase remained a mystery for years until it was discovered to be hiding in plain sight – in the celebrated Spenger’s Fish Grotto restaurant in Berkeley, California. This vase was purchased in Chicago by Frank Spenger and brought to the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894, which explains how it eventually made itself to Berkeley, California. Finally, in February 2019, The Khalili Collections purchased the last missing vase from an auction house in Auckland, California.