Onin suemon zogan

Here’s another Onin tsuba for comparison to the one in the previous post.

9.91 cm H x 0.42 cm T mimi, 0.18 cm T seppa dai

Large, thin and unusually intact, it’s one of the nicer ones to have survived. Clearly the hitsuana are original. Without inlay, it would be a good ko-katchushi guard with ume, hanabishi and inome sukashi.

Occasionally some styles of early iron tsuba are found in versions with no inlay, with hira zogan or with nunome zogan that would be attributed to Tosho/Katchushi, Heianjo and Ko-Shoami respectively. It seems unlikely that these were actually the work of different “schools” but were various options available on the base model. I’ve wondered if all of the work was done “in house” on these, or if the inlay work was subcontracted out to an specialist.

In any event, the customer opted for maximum opulence in this case.

The plate surrounding the kiri mon and kiku shows the clearest signs of having been worked to hold the shinchu suemon inlay in place.

The kiku here, particularly on the lower left show some brass exposed outside of the design that wasn’t buried under the iron. It’s not as pronounced as in the previous example with the botan inlay. I’m not sure it’s quite the same thing. Also interesting is how the brass tendrils are fitted together – definitely not obvious without magnification.

The kiri mon on the back side shows a little more “flange” to it. Perhaps not quite as carefully done as the front.

Given how often brass inlay tsuba from the Edo period are missing pieces it’s remarkable that one this old was worked carefully enough to hold on to even the thinnest elements. In guards with some losses it’s usually possible to see the undercutting of the iron plate done around the edge of the missing inlay to hold it in place. I’ll keep an eye out for one to photograph.

2 thoughts on “Onin suemon zogan”

  1. Hi Jim.

    Fascinating tsuba. So much here. so large. so extensive. so intact. so thin. so old.. such presence to survive intact five centuries… and the wonder of who made it.. custom order… it must of been very expensive at the time… opulent as you say….great tsuba.. a masterwork of the time… dazzles I am sure in person.

    Thank you for posting and for the observations regarding the inlay, how it is affixed here and in the Onin before with the Peony.. the flanges on the Onin have always fascinated me.. that they were there are remained for centuries.. and to me give me a look into the soul of the piece…




  2. Indeed a fascinating Tsuba here!
    I do like it a lot.
    I always did wonder me about these early guards- especially if we do compare their´s calm expression and generally speaking very elegant way to express a special stilism in those times taste of art.
    They somehow remind me to the work of Ko-Mino.
    Reading your´s idea about a eventually custom order in using already existing plates, least this hypothese sounds very promising- in fact, i think you are very right!
    A connection with Ko-Mino and maybe Ezo is more then just visible.
    Beautiful Tsuba! Thanks for posting it Jim.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s