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(小道具ギャラリー③) Kodōgu Gallery #3

Tsuneshige Fuchi (常重縁)


Japanese Title: 大黒天図縁 (daikokuten no zu fuchi)

Material: Brass (shinchu 真鍮)

Age: Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期)

Size:  3.9 cm long, 1.0 cm wide

Signature: Tsuneshige (常重)   

Surface Finish:  Migaki-ji (磨地) 

Attachment:  None


This a lone soft metal (kinkō 金工) handle collar (fuchi 縁) by the Nara School artist Tsuneshige (常重). He was active in capital Edo during late Edo Period circa 1775-1800 CE. While not directly pictured the design motifs on the fuchi imply the god of agriculture, Daikokuten (大黒天), whose name literally means 'Great Black Deva'. He is also considered one of Japan's seven lucky gods. This type of nonliteral symbolic representation is common in all types of Japanese art when it comes to representing deities or other legendary beings. The design itself nicely done in both low relief carvings and high relief inlays of both gold (kin 金) and the copper-gold alloy (shakudō 赤銅). The base metal of fuchi is brass (shinchu 真鍮). The collar like many fuchi is a separate piece made of refined copper (suaka 素銅).


Provenance:  Charles Foos Collection

Ko-Mino Menuki (古美濃目貫)

Japanese Title: 南瓜図目貫 (kabocha no zu menuki) 

Material: Red Copper (Shakudō 赤銅)

Age: Muromachi Period (室町時代)

Size: 4.5 cm

Signature: mumei (無銘)      

Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)

Attachment:  None

These are early handle ornaments (menuki 目貫) of a Japanese sword. They are made of the copper-gold alloy (shakudō 赤銅). Theme of this exquisitely detail menuki is of vines, blossoms, and fruits of the winter squash (kabocha 南瓜).

The overall thin construction of the menuki is clearly observable on backside of these menuki. The carved openwork (sukashi-bori 透彫) design shows great deal of undercutting and open space. This is characteristic of early menuki produced by the Mino Kinko (美濃金工) school during the Muromachi Period (early to mid-16th Century). All exceedingly early menuki like these are unsigned hence the specific artist is unknown therefore an attribution of Ko-Mino (古美濃) is specific as possible and most appropriate given the circumstances.   


Provenance: Unknown

Kanshirō Fuchi-gashira (勘四郎縁頭)

Japanese Title: 波の図縁、波の図山路頭 
Material: Red Copper (Shakudō 赤銅)
Age: Middle Edo Period (江戸時代中期)  
Size: Fuchi- 3.6 cm X 2.5 cm, Kashira- 3.3 cm X 1.1 cm. 
Signature: mumei (無銘)      
Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地) 
Attachment:  None

This is set of matching caps for a sword handle (fuchi-gashira 縁頭). The set was made for the handle of a long sword (katana 刀). The set is made of a dark blackish-brown alloy which is likely the copper-gold alloy (shakudō 赤銅) with a low gold content and/or a change in the typical coloring process to obtain the desired blackish-brown color.  The inner part of the fuchi called the (tenjōgane 天井金) is made of refined copper (suaka 素銅). It was unsigned (mumei 無銘) by the artist that made the set.1
The design done in a high relief carving style (takabori 高彫) on both the (fuchi 縁) and (kashira 頭) is of waves (nami 波).  The base surface for the fitting set is polished smooth (migaki-ji 磨地). The kashira has in addition to the waves design the popular Higo (肥後) Province design referred in reference books literally as “mountain path’ (yamamichi 山路).2
While unpapered the two previous owners of this set think that this set of simple design was an early work of 3rd generation Nishigaki Kanshirō (西垣勘四郎) whose artist name was Yoshinori (吉教). He had a long artistic period and lived from 1680-1761 CE and was a direct retainer of the Hosokawa (daimyō 大名) feudal lord. The 3rd generation takeover of the school’s leadership in 1717 CE at age 37 and came under the Kyōho reforms (Kyōho no kaikaku 享保の改革) These reforms contained economic cultural measures and a general appeal for people to lead a thriftier life. I think this is reflected in this set simple design and use of shakudō alloy base metal with a low gold content.2,3


1. “Japanese Shakudo” by Hachiro Oguchi, Gold Bull., ©1983, 16, (4).
2. Works of Kanshirō Nishigaki by Itō Mitsuru, translated by Markus Sesko, ©2007.
3. “Kyōhō Reforms” (  

Provenance: Charlie Foos Collection

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