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(小道具ギャラリー②) Kodōgu Gallery #2

Mito Menuki (水戸目貫)

Japanese Title:  巳図目貫 (mi no zu menuki)
Material:  Copper-Silver Alloy (Shibuichi 四分一), Refined Copper (Suaka 素銅)
Age:  Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期)  
Size:  4.4 cm long, 1.1 cm wide
Signature:  mumei (無銘)    
Surface Finish:  Migaki-ji (磨地)  
Attachment: Custom Storage Box with Hakogaki written by Kanzan Sato


These are ornaments (menuki 目貫) for a handle of the Japanese sword (nihontō 日本刀).  The life like design is a snake (mi 巳) in a resting and active state.  The base soft metal of one ornament is the copper-silver alloy (shibuichi 四分一) and the other is refined copper (suaka 素銅).
The box inscription (hakogaki 箱書き) written during the Shōwa Period by the famous Japanese sword research and one of the founding members of the NBTHK Kanzan Sato.  He attributes the menuki to be the work of the Mito (水戸) school active in the castle town of Mito in Hitachi Province.  They were likely made during the late Edo Period (江戸時代) circa 1770-1868 CE.

The menuki underwent professional restoration by a traditional trained (Kinkō 金工) artist in Japan in 2019. A custom pad and pillow were also made for the unique box with Hakogaki by Kanzan Sato.  

Provenance:  Frank Gorelik Collection



Hamano Menuki (濱野目貫)


Japanese Title:  山鯨図目貫 (yama kujira no zu menuki)

Material:  Copper-Silver Alloy (Shibuichi 四分一)

Age:  Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期) 

Size:  3.0 cm long, 2.0 cm wide

Signature:  mumei (無銘)   

Surface Finish:  Migaki-ji (磨地) 

Attachment:  None

These handle ornaments (menuki 目貫) are used to improve the grip on the handle for a Japanese sword. The design is of the Japanese Wild Boar (yama-kujira 山鯨) striking different poses. The Wild Boar features prominently in Japanese culture, where it is widely seen as a fearsome and reckless animal, to the point that several words and expressions in Japanese referring to recklessness include references to boars.

The design is carved in a nice high relief (takabori 高彫) the style is very naturalist and vivid. The base metal of the menuki is a copper-silver alloy (shibuichi 四分一) with a dark patina. The eyes of each boar are nicely highlighted in gold inlay. The workmanship and motif subject look to be the work of the Hamano (濱野) School during the late Edo Period circa 1770-1868 CE.


Provenance:  Charles Foos Collection

Shinchū Menuki (真鍮目貫)

Japanese Title: 南瓜図目貫 (kabocha no zu menuki) 
Material: Yellow Brass (shinchū 真鍮)
Age: Azuchi-Momoyama Period (安土桃山時代) 
Size: 5.0 cm
 long, 1.5 cm wide
Signature: mumei (無銘)
Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地) 
Attachment: Custom Storage Box

A new set of large handle ornaments (menuki 目貫) was recently added to my collection. They were purchased at the 2023 Chicago Show. The base metal of menuki is a yellow brass (shinchū 真鍮). The menuki show a fair amount of heigh and detail to the undercut design. The design of the menuki is that of vines, blossoms, and fruits of the winter squash (kabocha 南瓜). This is a common symbol of good luck and fortune. The amount of open work done on these menuki is remarkable and may be an indication of their age. I am not sure of the maker, but I think they date from Azuchi-Momoyama Period. More study and research of the set are necessary.

Provenance: Mark Ceskavich Collection

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