In the early 1980s Connoisseur introduced a remarkable and very limited series of porcelain bonsai studies, along with two absolutely stunning Japanese garden scenes. These are rarely seen on the secondary market and are highly prized among collectors.
The Bonsai Studies
Serenity (ornamental cherry bonsai) was an edition of 25 in 1981, priced at $4000. Measuring 13″ high x 12″ wide (33 cm x 30.5 cm) it depicts the classic flowering cherry in leaf and full bloom.
Also issued in 1981 was Tranquility (wisteria bonsai) as an exclusive design sold only at Brielle Galleries in New Jersey. This too is an issue of 25 but at a lower pricepoint ($2350.) Designed by Diane Lewis, it is 13″ high x 10″ wide (33 cm x 25.5 cm.)
The following year (1982) saw another pair of bonsai studies. This is Meditation (Japanese red maple bonsai), an even more limited edition of 10 priced at $5500. The rich red color of Acer palmatum is a particularly difficult one to reproduce properly in porcelain but is here done flawlessly. Dimensions are 14″ high by 12″ wide and deep. (35.5 cm high x 30.5 cm w and d)
The fourth and final bonsai is Peace (azalea bonsai) and is also the only one not depicted in a container. This too was an issue of only 10 sculptures, at $3500, and is 14″ (33cm) high. The study as actually produced by the studio did include the natural wood base as shown. I have only seen this study come up for sale twice in recent years, and both times the base was missing although that fact was not mentioned by either auction house.
The Japanese Gardens
Both of these amazing gardens were issued in 1983, and both were editions of only 10 sculptures each.
Eternity showcases a weeping willow and groups of Japanes iris (Iris ensata) as well as the white star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) in glorious bloom. The stone lantern is one of the traditional types called ishi-dōrō or pedestal lantern. The study is 14″ (35.5 cm) high and approximately 18″ (45.75 cm) wide and deep on its custom walnut base. Retail price at introduction was $6250.
Infinity is larger overall, being 21″ (53.25 cm) high and also 21″ wide and deep. The intricate workmanship seen in every aspect of this study is on a level that almost defies adequate description; every roof tile is meticulously detailed, every leaf seeming almost capable of trembling in the wind. It was priced at $7250 as shown on its recessed solid walnut base.
These two gardens were among the centerpieces of Brielle Galleries’ autumn 1983 catalog, the other two Connoisseur pieces being the Japanese cranes Dancing Wings (shown in Birds Part Three) and the $24,000 samurai warrior Shogun, one of their most elaborate equestrian studies.
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