(鍔ギャラリー⑥) Tsuba Gallery #6

Kanton Daisho Tsuba (広東大小鐔)


Japanese Title:  双龍唐草図大小鐔
Material:  Iron (tetsu 鉄) 
Age:  Middle Edo Period (江戸時代中期)
Size:  大: 6.5 cm X 6.8 cm, 5 mm at the rim, 小: 6.0 cm X 6.4 cm      
Signature:  Mumei (無銘) 
Shape: Tate-maru gata (竪丸形)
Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)  
Attachment: Daisho Tsuba Wooden Storage Box

This is a matching set of handguards (tsuba 鐔) made of well forged iron (tetsu 鉄). The design is that of twin Chinese style dragons carved in the background of a complex vine network (soryu-karakusa zu 双龍唐草図). This popular design was favored by artists working in port city of Nagasaki (長崎) in Hizen Province (肥前國) but later spread to other areas of Japan. The Hizen artists were heavily influenced by Sino-Tibetan aesthetics imported into Japan via merchants from Kanton (広東) a southeastern region of China with a major seaport.

The fine detail and three-dimensional design on both tsuba are remarkable. Imported iron brought through the international port of Nagasaki by the Dutch might have been used to forge the base plates of this tsuba set. The quality of the deeply undercut carving and conventional shape of the (seppa-dai 切羽台) and accessory holes (ryōhitsu-ana 両櫃穴) indicates that the set was made in Japan by the Yagami (矢上) School around the time of the late Edo Period (circa ~1770-1868 CE).

   

Provenance: David Bond Collection

Sandai Yamakichibei Tsuba (三代山吉兵鐔)

Japanese Title: 片輪車文透鐔 (katawa-kuruma no mon sukashi tsuba) 

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age: Kanbun (寛文) Era - Genroku (元禄) Era

Size: 7.6 cm X 7.7 cm, 4.2 mm at rim

Signature: Yamakichibei (山吉兵)

Shape: Maru gata (丸形)

Surface Finish: Tsuchime-ji (槌目地)

Attachment: NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Paper

This is a forged iron (tetsu 鉄) hand guard (tsuba 鐔).  The overall shape of the tsuba is round (maru-gata 丸形).  The rim tsuba has a wonderful round shape (maru-mimi 丸耳).  The surface of the tsuba has a fine hammered texture (tsuchime-ji 槌目地) that feels great in the hand. The positive openwork (ji-sukashi 地透) design is of a single wheel of a cart (katawa-kuruma 片輪車).  
This tsuba is an exceptional example of the third generation Yamakichibei (山吉兵) work who was based in the castle city of Nagoya (名古屋) of Owari Province (尾張國) also known as Bishū (尾州) during the Kanbun (寛文) to the Genroku (元禄) eras (1661-1704).  Yamakichibei along with Fukui Jizaemon and Toda Hikozaemon are considered the three great masters of the Genroku Era.  The appraisal paper issued on February 24, 2017 (tokubetsu hozon tōsōgu kanteisho 特別保存刀装具鑑定書) by the (Nihon Bijutsu Hozon Kyokai 日本美術刀剣保存協會) (NBTHK), Society of the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword designating the tsuba to be of exceptional quality, authentic, and worthy of historical preservation during its formal examination (shinsa 審査).  This tsuba was directly attributed to be the work of third generation (sandai 三代) Yamakichibei master by the NBTHK.
The tsuba was published in the old Japanese book of One Hundred Tsuba Designs (hyaku tsuba no zu 百鐔之図).  This early book used the rubbing (oshigata 押形) method of tracing the outline of the tsuba followed by the reproduction of the details of the designs by rubbing charcoal on thin rice paper over the surface of the tsuba.  The publication date of this book is not clear but likely dates from the Meiji Period (明治時代) 1868-1912 CE before the widespread use of photography.   

  

Provenance: Eric Molinier Collection

Katchūshi Utsushi Tsuba (甲冑師写し鐔) 

     
Japanese Title:  丸に桔梗紋透鍔 (maru ni ki kyo mon sukashi tsuba)              
Material:  Iron (tetsu 鉄)     
Age:  Unknown  
Size:  9.4 cm X 9.4 cm, 6 mm at rim, 2 mm at center
Signature:  mumei (無銘)   
Shape:  Maru-gata (丸形)        
Surface Finish:  Tsuchime-ji (槌目地)          
Attachment:  Custom Wooden Storage Box

This is a large handguard (tsuba 鐔). It is made of well forged iron (tetsu 鉄) which shows a finely hammered texture (tsuchime-ji 槌目地). The small openwork (ko-sukashi 小透) is that of a round family crest (kamon 家紋) in the design of a Japanese bell flower (kikyo 桔梗). Much of the original black lacquer (kuro-urushi 黒漆), applied to prevent rust is still present on the plate surface (ji 地) of the tsuba.  The raised rim (uchikaeshi-mimi 打返耳) has an applied rim cover (fukurin 覆輪) on the tsuba that is made of unrefined copper (yamagane 山銅).

The tsuba was submitted for formal appraisal (shinsa 審査) in October 2019 to the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword (NBTHK). It was judged to be ineligible for an entry level appraisal paper because of its modern age. No other details were provided but the NBTHK was likely thinking tsuba was made as a faithful work (utsushi写し) of a battlefield guard used during the Warring States Period (Sengoku-jidai 戦国時代). These large tsuba were made for use on great sword (o-dachi 大太刀) of the period. Other have expressed vastly different informed opinions regarding the age of this tsuba. I am unsure and feel the tsuba requires more in-hand study and a possible resubmission at some point later. The artist might have even used old iron (ko-tetsu 古鉄) to forge the plate, applied real black lacquer with later patination, and used a dark unrefined copper to construct the rim cover.

    

Provenance: Unknown Purchased from Japan