An early ko-kinko tsuba with kikusui and choji motif.
More openwork than is usual for ko-kinko. The detail in the carving holds up even under a microscope, which is seldom the case. Sophisticated work in design and execution. In this case the ana is a safe bet to be original, if slightly altered. I’m left wondering what the rest of the mounting looked like.
A return to the more elaborate end of the early soft metal tsuba spectrum with another small shakudo nanako example made with very different technique from the recently posted early Muromachi example.
Kikyo (bellflower) at the top left and Nadeshiko (pink) at bottom left. The zufu describes the other flowers as Kiku, but the shape of the leaves are different than usual for chrysanthemum. Aster is another possibility, but given that there are karakusa on the back with different leaves maybe the kiku blossoms aren’t meant as a literal representation of the plant.
Update: Reader question about jakago. See photos by Satomi Grim below. Its use as a purely decorative motif probably has a bigger life than its literal meaning, but it started as a sort of basket weave construction used to hold rocks in place to stabilize river banks (enthusiastically replaced by concrete in modern Japan). In this tsuba it might imply that the plants are growing along a river bank or may just be there for its own sake. The same form is used in domestic baskets, packaging, etc., as well.
(end of update…)
Both sides of the seppa dai have small patches of what would at first just appear to be wear, but looking closely are metal overlay.
Occasionally on early kinko guards there are a few rows of nanako sown on the seppa dai that appear to be a test to get a feel for the material before starting in on the main part that will be seen. This isn’t the same, but might it be something related?
Going through Mr. Lundgren’s book recently I came across a very similar tsuba I had forgotten.
It looks very likely to me that it by the same individual. That is interesting enough, but note that on the backside seppadai there is also a “test patch” but in a color that relates to metal on that tsuba. The front side seppa dai has been modified to the point that it’s hard to say if it also has one.
Could this have been a final check of the preparation work to ensure that the adhesion of the iroe to the ground would be good before proceeding with the main work? That was a relatively new technique at this time but would soon replace uttori zogan.
It would be interesting to compare the two in person… any ideas?
Continuing the micro-theme of early and opulent, this time in shakudo nanako with uttori zogan. This guard is rather small, but extremely thick and obviously was mounted on a robust blade.
Detail views of some of the plant motifs. Usually flowers are shown realistically but leaves, stems, seeds, etc. are often omitted or substituted by generalized karakusa type motifs. Here each plant is represented fully and accurately.
It would be interesting to know what this was mounted on. Was it this thick for weight alone, for aesthetics and/or conspicuous consumption (it’s solid shakudo)? A published description speculates that it may have been a tachi guard converted for koshigatana or uchigatana use, but if so in its original state all of the floral motifs would be growing upside down and the water would be in the sky.
The small size, thickness and shape do recall some early tachi guards, and while I don’t think it was one, there may have been some allusion there. Was it mounted on a koshigatana that was worn paired with a tachi?
In any event, a good opportunity to study some of the better early Muromachi period nanako and uttori work on a guard that has it all turned up to 11.
Update: A reader mentioned that it may be that the guard was mounted on a tachi or kodachi in the present orientation. Given the large sekigane and heavy work on the seppa dai it is possible that the original nakago ana pointed the other way and that its original outline was lost in later remounting on a much thicker blade. If it originally had no hitsuana, it is very fortunate that none of the original decoration was cut in half when they were added.