(小道具ギャラリー①) Kodōgu Gallery #1

Ko-Kinkō Menuki (古金工目貫)

 
Japanese Title:  這龍図目貫 (hairyū 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:  Custom Kiri Wood Storage Box, NBTHK Hozon Tōsōgu Kanteisho (保存刀装具鑑定書) ID# 4007747


These are large handle ornaments of a Japanese sword (menuki 目貫) made of the Japanese copper-gold alloy (shakudō 赤銅).  The deep black color of the alloy is characteristic of a higher gold content.  These menuki were attributed by the NBTHK to the large group of early goldsmith (Ko-Kinkō 古金工).  These menuki date from the Muromachi Period (室町時代) from approximately 1336-1573 and was likely mounted and used on a long but ornately decorated (uchigatana 打刀).  The menuki are constructed of a single thin plate shakudō that shows extensive use of openings (nuke-ana 抜穴) to form the design.  This along with rectangle shaped posts on the back side are characteristic of menuki from the Muromachi Period.    
The design of menuki is of a crawling male and female Japanese style dragon (hairyū 這龍).  The male dragon can be distinguish from the female dragon by presence of a double edged sword (ken 剣) at the end of its tail.  In these fine menuki the male dragon is actively grasping the wish-fulfilling jewel while the female dragon looks on with a purposeful indifference.  The dragon has long been associated with the rain and the sky.  It is also seen as a symbol of good opportunity as well as the Emperor.     

References:

1. The Samurai Collection:  9th International Convention & Exhibition by Kokusai Tosogu Kai (KTK), Copyrighted 2013, page 46.
2. Samurai: 8th International Convention & Exhibition by Kokusai Tosogu Kai (KTK), Copyrighted 2012, page 32.
3. The Art Appreciation of Japanese Sword Fittings by Shigeo Fukushi, Copyrighted 2012, page 86.

   

Provenance:  Eric Molinier Collection

Kinkō Menuki (金工目貫)

 
Japanese Title:  麒麟図目貫 (Kirin no zu menuki)
Material:  Copper-Silver Alloy (Shibuichi 四分一) 
Age:  Middle to Late Edo Period (江戸時代中期~後期)  
Size:  3.5 cm long, 2.0 cm wide
Signature:  mumei (無銘)    
Surface Finish:  Migaki-ji (磨地)  
Attachment:  None

 

These are ornaments (menuki 目貫) for the handle of the Japanese sword. Due to their overall size they are were likely mounted on used on a long sword (katana 刀). The design is that of the Japanese mythical dragon horse or Chinese unicorn (kirin 麒麟).(1) In Edo Period Japan unlike Qing Dynasty China it is considered one of the most powerful mythical creatures above both the dragon and phoenix. It is frequently referenced in works of literature and art in both China and Japan.(2)
The design is carved in high relief (takabori 高彫). The base metal of these menuki is the copper-silver alloy (shibuichi 四分一) darken naturally with age. I estimate based upon the overall workmanship, high relief style carving style, and use of materials that these menuki were likely made during the middle to late Edo Period (1770 - 1868 CE). I am not sure which school or group could have made them, but fine detail is very nice. More research and study are required.

References:
1.  Legend in Japanese Art by Henri L. Joly. John Lane Company ©1908, pages 175-177.
2. Wikipedia Entry for Qilin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qilin
 

Provenance: David Bond Collection

Goto Menuki (後藤目貫)


Japanese Title:  獅図目貫 (shi shi no zu menuki)  
Material: Gold foil with copper base  
Age:  Azuchi-Momoyama Period (安土桃山時代)  
Size:  3.0 cm long, 1.4 cm wide
Signature:  mumei (無銘)    
Surface Finish:  Migaki-ji (磨地)  
Attachment:  None

These are very finely made Japanese sword handle ornaments (menuki 目貫).  I had various opinions about which group made these menuki ranging from the Edo Period Kyō-Kanagushi, Momoyama Period Goto, Edo Period Goto, and Waki-Goto.  These menuki were likely made by the Goto (後藤) School circa the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568 – 1615 CE).  The design is a classical one made popular by early Goto School. It is of twin lion-dogs (shi-shi 獅) joyfully playing together.  They are made of thick gold foil with an underlining copper base which is only visible in one place on the back side (ura 裏) of the left menuki.  The darker areas on the menuki are caused by black lacquer that was applied to the handle they were once mounted on.

Provenance:  Dale Garbutt Collection