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(鍔ギャラリー⑪) Tsuba Gallery #11

Den Umetada Kinkō Tsuba (伝埋忠金工鐔)

Japanese Title: 菊花十字透鐔 (kikka-juji mon sukashi tsuba)

Material: Red Copper (shakudō 赤銅)

Age: Middle Edo Period (江戸時代中期)

Size:  7.5 cm X 7.8 cm, 3.0 mm at rim

Signature: Tagane-mei (鏨銘)  

Shape: Nagamaru-gata (長丸形)

Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)

Attachment:  NBTHK Hozon Paper

This is soft metal handguard (tsuba 鐔) made of a dark copper-gold alloy (shakudō 赤銅). It was likely mounted and used on a long sword (katana 刀). The surface has a highly polish smooth (migaki-ji 磨地) mirror-like finish. The positive openwork (ji-sukashi 地透) design is that of a stylized family crest in the shape of the Kanji for the number ten (juji 十字) associated with feudal lords (Daimyō 大名) of Satsuma Province (薩摩國) but was also used as a family crest by other samurai. The openwork design in accented by gold (kin 金) and copper (dō 銅) smooth inlays (zōgan 象嵌) of a chrysanthemum flower (kika 菊花) and vines. The rounded-square rim (kaku-mimi koniku 角耳小肉) is polished differently than the surface (ji 地) of the tsuba creating a dramatic contrast between the two areas.

The hole on the left side for the handle of a small accessory knife (kozuka hitsu-ana 小柄櫃穴) was added later and disrupts the inlay work on one side of the tsuba. This indicates that tsuba was likely remounted more than once on different swords. I think this tsuba dates from the middle Edo Period circa ~1750 CE based upon its multiple remounts with modification, quality, and style of the inlays.

On April 1, 2022, it was judge and attributed formal appraisal (shinsa 審査) in Tokyo, Japan at the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword (NBTHK) to be a work in the tradition of the Umetada (埋忠) School.  An appraisal paper (hozon tōsōgu kanteisho 保存刀装具鑑定書) was issued confirming the tsuba is authentic, of good quality, has artistic merit, and is worthy of historical preservation.


Provenance: Unknown Purchased from a US Japanese antiques dealer.

Tachikanaguchi Tsuba (太刀金具師鐔)

Japanese Title: ??
Material: Unrefined Copper (yamagane 山銅)  
Age: Middle Muromachi Period (室町時代中期) 
Size: 7.7 cm X 8.2 cm, 5.0 mm at rim.
Signature: Mumei (無銘) 
Shape: Mokkō-gata (木瓜形)  
Surface Finish: Nanako-ji (魚子地) 
Attachment: None

This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) is made of a sandwich of three layers of metal. Two outer thin layers with an applied fish roe (Nanako-ji 魚子地) textured surface and a thick inner core. All layers are made of a hard and dense unrefined copper (yamamgane 山銅). The outer thin layers have had black lacquer (kuro-urushi 黒漆) applied. This was likely applied to simulate copper-gold alloy (shakudō 赤銅). The design is pain of a textured lacquered surface with simple dot inlays (ten-zōgan 点象厳). The inlays are made of Chinese imported brass (shinchū 真鍮). The edge of the tsuba has an applied rim cover (fukurin 覆輪) made of the same soft metal as the surface layers but with a nicely polished smooth surface (migaki-ji 磨地). The tsuba was likely originally made for a (ko-dachi 小太刀) worn edge down. The accessory hole (kozuka hitsu-ana 小柄櫃穴) was added later when the tsuba was remounted during the Edo Period for use on a typical short sword (wakizashi 脇差) that was always worn edge up.

This fine example of the group’s works dates from sometime during the middle Muromachi Period, likely sometime between the Eikyo to the Ōnin Era (1429-1469 CE). The following quote from Dr. Torigoye from Tsuba Geijutsu-kō sums up nicely the esthetics of this tsuba. "The feeling of tachi-kanagushi tsuba is noble and austere, yet simple and plain. The most important points to observe in the works of the tachi-kanagushi are the quality of the metal, and the harmony between the shape, color, and design.”


Provenance: Purchased from Bob Benson at the 2021 San Francisco Show

Kumagai Tsuba (熊谷鐔)

Japanese Title: 三傘図鍔 (san kasa no zu tsuba) 

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age: Late Edo Period (江戸時代後期)

Size:  7.5 cm X 8.1 cm, 3.0 mm at rim, 4.5 mm at seppa-dai

Signature:  mumei (無銘)  

Shape: Tatemaru-gata (竪丸形)    

Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)

Attachment:  None

This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) made of forged iron (tetsu 鉄). This tsuba was likely used on a long sword (katana 刀). The main inlayed design is of three rain hats (san-kasa 三傘) with straw rope (nawa 縄) ties. Two rain hats (ni-kasa 二傘) with straw robe ties are pictured on the backside (ura 裏) of the tsuba. The surface (ji 地) of both sides is covered with fine radiating file marks (amida-yasuri 阿弥陀鑢) representing Amida Buddha’s radiating aura that have a soft almost melted appearance. To the raised rim (dote-mimi 土手耳) is of silver crosshatching inlay (gin nunome-zōgan 銀布目象嵌) applied in a zigzag design that represent cedar wickerwork (ayasugi 綾杉) pattern.

This iron tsuba is the work of the (Kumagai 熊谷) School of the late Edo Period (江戸時代後期) circa the early to mid-1800s.  The Kumagai School were retainers of the Hosokawa (細川) Family located near their estate in the capital Edo. The school is sometimes referred to as the Edo Higo (江戸肥後) because of it being based in Edo and working in a (Higo kinkō 肥後金工) style.  An alternative theory as to the maker of this unsigned tsuba put forward by some of the previous owners of this tsuba is that this tsuba is the work of a later generation (kōdai 後代) of the Shimizu (志水) School.  The overall elongated round shape with raised rim and well forged iron are all characteristic of the Shimizu School. The texture of the plate iron and patina of this tsuba is wonderful and uncharacteristic of the Kumagai School as discussed by Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye in this book Tsuba Geijutsu-kō (芸術孝) which further may indicate that the tsuba is a late work of the Shimizu School. There was some exchange in the designs and techniques used between the later generations of the Shimizu School specific the 5th generation Shimizu master based in the city of Yatsushiro (八代) in Higo Province who trained some members of the Kumagai School based in the capital Edo. The ayasugi silver inlay pattern done along the raised rim was first employed by the second-generation Shimizu School mater.  Submitting this tsuba for shinsa might allow this tsuba to be better characterized and end the debate.

Provenance: Charlie Foos Collection         

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