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(鍔ギャラリー③) Tsuba Gallery #3

Hōan Tsuba (法安鐔)

Japanese Title: 輪宝図鐔 (rinpo zu tsuba)

Material: Iron (Tetsu 鉄)

Age: Early Edo Period (江戸時代初期)

Size: 7.4 cm X 7.4 cm, 3.0 mm at rim.

Signature:  Mumei (無銘)

Shape:  Maru-gata (丸形)

Surface Finish:  Yakite-kusarakashi (焼手腐し)

Attachment:  NBTHK Hozon Paper

This a handguard (tsuba 鐔) made or forged iron (tetsu 鉄). It was made to be mounted on a short sword (wakizashi 脇差). The design showing excellent workmanship is raised above the surface of the plate using a heat and acid based etching method called (yakite-kusarakashi 焼手腐し) this method of carving was often used by the early generations Hōan School. The design is that of the Buddhist Dharma wheel (rinpō 輪宝) (Sanskrit: dharmachakra) with an atypical 16 spokes in place of the more common eight spokes. The sixteen spokes of the Dharma wheel reference the Sixteen Great Enlighted beings (Sanskrit: bodhisattva) of Esoteric Buddhism (Jūroku Daibosatsu 十六大菩薩). The stokes of the wheel are in the shape of double-edged sword blades (ken 剣) often seen on some Buddhist statues and other religious art. The motif also has around the spokes of the wheel strings of Buddhist prayer beads (juzu 数珠). The thin rim has a rounded square shape (kaku-mimi koniku 角耳小肉). Iron bones (tekkotsu 鉄骨) are presence along the rim and are quite notable. The thickness of the plate increases towards the center (seppa-dai 切羽台) from the rim where is it thinnest. On the ura side of the tsuba is a small carved mark, which is likely an old owner’s or collector’s mark.

On May 11, 2016, it underwent formal appraisal (shinsa 審査) in Tokyo, Japan at the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword (NBTHK). 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. I estimate this tsuba is an unsigned work of the first or second generation Hōan master. The first generation was named Kawaguchi Saburō´emon Noriyasu (川口三郎右衛門法安) and used Hōan (法安) as his artist’s name. The second generation was Sakuma Yō´emon (佐久間要右衛門) and used the artist’s name Hōan Hisatsugu (法安久次). The tsuba dates from the early Edo Period circa the 17th Century.



Provenance: Purchased from Boris Markhasin of Tosoguya ( at the 2023 Chicago Show.

Jidai Nobuie Tsuba (時代信家鐔)

Japanese Title:  瓢箪図鐔 ((hyōtan no zu tsuba)

Material:  Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age:  Early Edo Period (江戸時代初期)

Size:  6.8 cm X 7.6 cm, 5.2 mm at rim, 2.0 mm at seppa-dai

Signature: Nobuie (信家)  

Shape: Mokkō-gata (木瓜形)       

Surface Finish:  Yakite-shitate (焼手仕立)  

Attachment:  None

This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) made from very well forged iron (tetsu 鉄). The carved design on both sides of the plate is that of the vines, leaves and fruit of the bottle gourd (hyōtan 瓢箪) plant. The bottle gourd is one of the oldest cultivated plants in East Asia and has long been established as an auspicious sign of plenty. The fruit of plant is often found in art particularly around the time of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period during the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who used it as an emblem. (1,2,3) 
While hard to clearly see the tsuba is signed on the left side of the central opening with two-character name (Nobuie 信家). While the placement and spacing is consistent with authentic examples due to the condition of the plate at the location of signature it is impossible to identify which of the seven different recognized styles, developed by Akiyama Kyūsaku, this signature (mei 銘) matches. (2)
The surface of the tsuba plate shows signs of significant heat treatment (yakite 焼手) causing iron bones (tekkotsu 鉄骨) to be exposed along the surface of the plate. The raised folded-over rim (uchikaeshi-mimi 打返耳) nicely displays a carved turtle shell pattern intermixed with more iron bones. Overall, this treatment and age of the plate creates a complex textured surface (jimon 地紋) that expresses the tea ceremony aesthetics (wabi-cha 佗び茶) developed by (Sen no Rikyū 千利休) 1522-1591 CE. (4)


1.    Legend in Japanese Art by Henri L. Joly. John Lane Company ©1908, pg. 101.
2.    Lethal Elegance the Art of Samurai Sword Fittings by Joe Earle. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ©2004, pg. 36.
3.    The Art Appreciation of Japanese Sword Fittings by Shigeo Fukushi. ©2012, pg. 316.
4.    Nobuie Tsuba by Itō Mitsuru ©2016, pgs. 6-7, 37.

Provenance: Peter Klein Collection

Kyō-Shōami Tsuba (京正阿弥鐔)

Japanese Title: 竹図透彫鍔 (take no zu sukashi bori tsuba)

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age: Middle Edo Period (江戸時代中期)

Size:  6.7 cm X 7.2 cm, 3.0 mm at rim

Signature:  mumei (無銘)   

Shape: Tatemaru-gata (竪丸形)

Surface Finish: Tsuchimeji (槌目地)

Attachment: None


This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) made of well forged iron (tetsu 鉄). It was made for a short sword (wakizashi 脇差) or possibly a shorter long sword (chiisai-katana 小さい刀). The openwork design of bent bamboo and leaves is done using a three dimensional carving style (nikubori ji-sukashi 肉彫地透). The Bamboo is considered a auspicious in Japanese culture and renowned for it resilience even during the cold of Winter. There are small dot inlays (zōgan 象厳) along the the bamboo leaves of brass and sliver that might represent morning dew drops. The rim of the tsuba is rounded (maru-mimi 丸耳) and completely intergraded into the overall decorative motif.


Provenance: Charlie Foos Collection         

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