• Arts of the Samurai  auction at Christies

    Sale 2378

    Arts of the Samurai

    23 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 55

    A HELMET OF A DISTINGUISHED MILITARY COMMANDER AND RETAINER OF THE SHOGUN: A MYOCHIN ZABOSHI KABUTO

    MUROMACHI PERIOD (16TH CENTURY), SIGNED MYOCHIN NOBUIE SAKU

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A HELMET OF A DISTINGUISHED MILITARY COMMANDER AND RETAINER OF THE SHOGUN: A MYOCHIN ZABOSHI KABUTO
    Muromachi period (16th century), SIGNED MYOCHIN NOBUIE SAKU
    The sixty-two plate kabuto, each plate a set of thirteen hoshi set with kiku washers and diminishing in size towards the tehen, the original black lacquered-over with a dark orange coating, the plain mabisashi and diminutive fukigaeshi set with shakudo mon of the Okubo daimyo, the four-lame shikoro lacquered black and laced in dark blue
    Accompanied by an early handwritten certificate issued by the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword) dated 1959.6.15, and a letter attesting that the helmet had been owned by Okubo Hikozaemon


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    Okubo Hikozaemon, or Tadataka (1560-1639), became perhaps the most popular member of the samurai class during his lifetime.

    The eighth son of Okubo Tadakazu, Hikozaemon never attained the great status of his elder brothers, two of whom became daimyo while he was still a boy. In 1575, at the age of 15, he fought bravely in the battle of Nagashino, after which he was engaged by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He fought his last battles in the 1614 Winter and 1615 Summer campaigns at Osaka Castle, being made a commander of a company of spearmen at the former, and thereby a direct retainer of the shogun with the relatively low income of 1000 koku of rice. Ieyasu placed great reliance on him. It is popularly believed that the shogun left an instruction in his will saying that he forgave Okubo his insolence and stubbornness, and that future daimyo should consult him over any doubts or divisions. Okubo is said later said to have been humorously refered to as "The Office of Government Opinion." He endeared himself through his writings, notably the Mikawa monogatari (Tale of Mikawa), written for the private moral guidance of his family. But the book was secretly copied and distributed among the samurai and townsmen. It records the rise to power of the Tokugawa and the role that his own Mikawa clan played in the process. He instructs his successors not to respect Iemitsu too much, since he would order them to commit suicide over the slightest fault. His behavior was both direct and eccentric, but he always supported those in reduced circumstances. On one occasion, it is said, since those below the rank of direct vassal to the shogun (hatamoto) were prohibited from riding in palanquins, which he thought unfair to people with disabilities, he had himself carried to Edo Castle in a large washtub. In 1632, Iemitsu gave Okubo the rank of Standard Bearer, and he was allowed finally to ride on horseback in procession with a small retinue of fifteen foot soldiers (ashigaru). When he was offered a further increase in income in his old age, he is said to have refused it as it had come too late.

    The provenance of the helmet is recorded in the intriguing letter written by one Shinsui Yoshio in 1920, which accompanies the lot, and which is refered to in the NBTHK certificate that authenticates the helmet. In 1630 Kawai Matagoro killed Matsudaira Gendayu over a minor matter. Gendayu's brother Kazuma was brother-in-law of Araki Mataemon (1598-1638), and the two determined to take revenge by killing Matagoro, who had fled to Edo. Okubo Hikozaemon, fearing that the feud could escalate, decided to intervene. He asked a retainer of the Hitoyoshi fief in Kyushu named Shibuya to take Matagoro under his protection. To emphasize the request, Okubo sent Shibuya his own clothes and the present helmet. Kazuma and Araki pursued Matagoro for four years, eventually catching him in 1634 in the well-known "Revenge of Iga Castle," in which twenty-nine persons lost their lives. The helmet remained in the posession of the Shibuya clan until the Meiji period, eventually to be acquired Shinsui Yoshio.

    Provenance

    Okubo Hikozaemon, by repute
    Walter A. Compton, sold in these Rooms, Japanese Swords and Sword Fittings from the Collection of Dr. Walter A. Compton (Part 1), 31 March 1992, lot 392