Ask the Experts: Kabuki parachute could pull out $350


LET-QI am a subscriber and I need your help with something I found at an estate sale. It appears to be a nylon parachute – a very small one (maybe for rations or something?). Each panel is painted in Japanese style artwork with different motifs, mostly geishas, warriors, cherry blossoms, etc. It is marked in English with “TO KYO” and different artist names (?) Sakino and Akia Ishi. I appreciate any info you can give me!           ~ C.H.


AYou have an unusual and interesting item. You did not say but it appears to be about one-fifth the size of the standard military T-10 parachute, which is 35 feet across. From World War II until recently when it was replaced by the T-11, nylon was used in place of silk in their manufacture. Your chute appears to be from the 1950s-1960s.

The figures are almost all from Japanese kabuki theater characters and scenes. Kabuki centers on episodes in Japanese history and has been widely enjoyed in Japan for hundreds of years. Why they would be on the parachute is anyone’s guess but perhaps it was a found item similar to silk that was used. Normally, kabuki scenes would be found on prints, but each panel of the chute could represent one of these. The woman, as an example, is a maiko girl, or young geisha. Other images, such as Mount Fuji, were possibly used without regard to kabuki.

During the period when the parachute was being painted, Junichiro Sekino was becoming famous as a print artist of the Sosaku Hana school, which is creative and incorporates self-expression into its composition. The Sakino, written in English, probably refers to him. In another hand, someone has added Akia Ishi, another artist. Sekino is most famous for Kabuki parachutehis series of the 53 Statues of the Jokaido, the road from Edo to Kyoto during the Shogunate period. His art covers a very wide range of styles, techniques and colors. He liked to represent sewamono or commoners, sometimes in black and white as well.

Because several artists are indicated in the creation of this work of art, it is unlikely to be the original work of Sekino. Having said that, it might be a “sleeper” requiring in-person examination of the item itself to be sure. From what is seen in your photos, however, the quality of the work is not close to his standards, so someone else was involved in its creation in all probability. Your photos tell quite a bit but not everything.

Sekino prints currently sell in the range of $350 to $800 normally, but also more. Because your parachute has this association, it probably would sell for $350, unless verified as his work.

About our A.I.A. appraiser: Dr. G. Marchelos is an honors graduate and certified appraiser of the Asheford Institute of Antiques. Additionally, Dr. Marchelos has a PhD in history, is a professor of antiquities at the University of Alabama, and is a nationally recognized appraiser working for both private and public institutions across North America. Dr. Marchelos is also a well established antiques dealer, operating both in the U.S. and Europe.

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