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(鍔ギャラリー⑦) Tsuba Gallery #7

Katchūshi tsuba (甲冑師鐔)

Japanese Title: 無紋図鐔 (mu mon no zu tsuba)
Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)
Age: End of the Muromachi Period (室町時代末期)
Size: 7.4 cm X 7.6 cm, 5.0 mm at rim, 3.0 mm at seppa-dai.
Signature: Mumei (無銘)    
Shape: Maru-gata (丸形) 
Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)  
Attachment: None

This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔) likely sized to fit a short sword (wakizashi 脇差). The tsuba is likely the work of an armorsmith (katchūshi 甲冑師) or an associated blacksmith. The tsuba lacks any design or decorative pattern (mumon 無紋) on either the front or the back. The raised embanked rim (dote-mimi 土手耳) of the tsuba is a separate piece of iron and feels and sounds hollow to the touch. The plate (ji 地) of the tsuba retains much of the original black lacquer (kurourushi 黒漆) that was applied to the surface after the tsuba was made. This was applied to protect the surface from moisture that can cause rusting. This type of minimalist decorative and very functional design are characteristics of the (Wabi-Sabi 侘び寂び) aesthetic.

The tsuba was published on page 60 in the book: Japanese design – Beauty of Tsuba by Susumu Kashima, Eiroku Hayashi, and Hirokichi Matsunaga ©2003 Ribun Publishing Inc. The tsuba has an unsigned attribution inscription (hakogaki 箱書き) on its wooden storage box that just reads “甲冑師鐔”.

Provenance: Kunio Izuka Collection via Bonham's Auction

Ko-Kinkō Tsuba (古金工鐔)


Japanese Title: 桐と唐松図鐔 (kiri to kara matsu no zu tsuba)

Material: Refined Copper (suaka 素銅)

Age: Late Muromachi to Azuchi-Momoyama Period (室町後期~安土桃山時代)

Size: 6.5 cm X 7.1 cm, 4.0 mm at rim

Signature: Mumei (無銘)   

Shape: Tatemaru-gata (竪丸形)

Surface Finish: Nanako-ji (魚子地)

Attachment: None


This is a handguard (tsuba 鐔). It was likely made for and mounted a short sword (wakizashi 脇差). The design motif on both sides consists of Chinese Tang Dynasty style pine (kara-matsu 唐松) and chrysanthemum (kiku 菊) the plants associated with the Winter and Autumn seasons, respectively. Both Chinese pine and chrysanthemum motifs are done using a high relief carving style accepted by additional carving of the raised motif (jibori 地彫). The base of the tsuba is an exceptionally fine fish roe texture (nanako-ji 魚子地). Two test patches of fish roe texture are visible along the seppa-dai on the reverse side of the tsuba. Points made of raised copper inlayed with gold (uttori-iroe うっとり色絵) also appear on both sides.

The plate of the tsuba is made up of three layers. Two thin foil layers of the copper-gold alloy shakudō (赤銅) are sandwiched around a thicker core of refined copper (suaka 素銅). The two outer foil layers of the tsuba are connected by a raised shakudō rim cover (fukurin 覆輪).

This tsuba is likely the work of an early goldsmith (ko-kinkō 古金工) and likely dates from about the late Muromachi to Azuchi-Momoyama Period (early to late 16th Century).


Provenance: Purchased from a US based Japanese Antiques Dealer

Umetada Tsuba (埋忠鐔)

Japanese Title: 天地銀杏透鐔 (tenchiichō sukashi tsuba)

Material: Iron (tetsu 鉄)

Age: Middle Edo Period (江戸時代中期)

Size: 7.2 cm X 8.0 cm, 3.0 mm at rim

Signature: mumei (無銘)

Shape: Kawari gata (変り形)

Surface Finish: Migaki-ji (磨地)

Attachment: NBTHK Hozon Paper ID# 4013528

This is a sword handguard (tsuba 鐔) made of forged iron (tetsu 鉄). The surface of the plate has a wonderful feel with a deep rich patina (sabi 寂). The surface adds a great tactile feel to the iron of the tsuba in hand.  The positive openwork (sukashi 地透) design of the tsuba is of twin Ginkgo (ichō 銀杏) tree leaves arranged on the top and bottom. The texture of the iron and the deep color of the patina gives me the impression of impermanence of dead leaves. The Ginkgo leaves look like they have fallen from a tree during the coolness of a morning’s frost during the Autumn season.
On May 7, 2018 it was judge and attributed formal appraisal (shinsa 審査) in Tokyo at the Japan at the Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword (NBTHK) to be a work of a mid-generation of the Umetada (埋忠) School based in the old cultural capital of Kyōto (京都) in Yamashiro Province (山城國).  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: Skip Holbrook Collection

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