• Arts of the Samurai  auction at Christies

    Sale 2378

    Arts of the Samurai

    23 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 42

    A HIZEN TANTO IN FINE UCHIGATANA MOUNTING

    EDO PERIOD (EARLY 17TH CENTURY), SIGNED HIZEN KUNI JU TADAYOSHI, MOUNTING LATE EDO PERIOD (19TH CENTURY), MOUNTING SIGNED ARAKI TOMEI, KOGAI AND KOZUKA SIGNED ISSAI TOMEI, KOZUKA BLADE SIGNED FUJIWARA TADAHIRO

    Price Realised  

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    A HIZEN TANTO IN FINE UCHIGATANA MOUNTING
    Edo period (early 17th century), SIGNED Hizen kuni ju Tadayoshi, Mounting Late Edo period (19th century), MOUNTING SIGNED ARAKI TOMEI, Kogai and Kozuka signed Issai Tomei, Kozuka blade signed Fujiwara Tadahiro
    Sugata [configuration]: Hira-zukuri, iori-mune, slightly sakizori curve
    Kitae [forging pattern]: Close itame with mokume and copious jinie, chikei, and sumihada
    Hamon [tempering pattern]: Large gunome, with complex activity among ashi within the ha, some tobiyaki, and kinsuji
    Boshi [tip]: Pointed ko-maru with steep kaeri
    Nakago [tang]: Ubu, two mekugi-ana, kiri merging towards slight katte sagari file marks, ha-agari kurijiri
    Habaki [collar]: Double gold-clad copper
    Nagasa [length of blade]: 28.4cm
    Horimono [carving]: On the ura the Buddhist invocation to the Lotus Sutra Namu myoho renge kyo appearing around a ken-type vajra-hilted sword as if a kurikara sculpture of a dragon entwining a sword, on the omote the inscription Fukuju kai muryo (a Buddhist phrase expressing the boundlessness of virtue and the compassion of the bodhisattva Kannon)
    Koshirae [mounting]: Black-lacquered aikuchi koshigatana mounting with same-wrapped hilt, the scabbard with gold lacquer, gold, and shell-inlaid pairs of pine needles, all matching metal fittings of shakudo with designs of ripe millet in takabori (high-relief carving) and with gold and silver inlay, including the kozuka and kogai, fuchi-kashira, koiguchi, kurigata, kaerizuno, and menuki, and the kojiri additionally with a boat anchored by the shore, with a line bearing auspicious prayer slips, the fuchi having in addition a horse's bit in silver inlay, and the kashira a Chinese cap also in silver inlay

    The blade accompanied by a certificate of registration as a Tokubetsu hozon token (Sword especially worthy of preservation) no. 101759 issued by the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword), dated 1988.7.2

    The mounting accompanied by a certificate of registration as a Juyo tosogu (Important sword fittings) no. 8652, issued by the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword), dated 1989.4.14


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    The fine blade is by Tadayoshi I of Hizen province. Born Hashimoto Shinzaemon in Saga in 1574, he became a retained swordsmith of the ruling Nabeshima clan of Hizen. In 1596 he was sent to Kyoto, where he studied under Umetada Myoju for three years. Returning to Hizen, he set up forge in the castle town of Nagase to establish a school, which was to last beyond the Edo period. In 1624 he was invested with the title of Musashi daijo, and assumed the name Tadahiro, which he used until his death at the age of 61 in 1632.

    Hizen-school swords are characterized by the finest ko-nie hada with rich and even jinie. The hamon of rich ko-nie varies from suguha to gunome and a characteristic form of rounded choji with long ashi, sometimes reaching down close to the cutting edge. The work of the first generation, in particular, often has pronounced chikei and sumihada, with fine variations in the hamon. These same characteristics are evident on two Juyo token blades by Tadakuni, a contemporary and pupil of Tadayoshi, lots 37 and 38 in this sale.

    The mounts are of commensurate quality to match this fine blade, and a rare example of a complete set of en-suite metal fittings by the master sculptor Araki Tomei (1817-1874), the scabbard lacquered black and the fittings of black shakudo with gold inlay of millet, the speciality of this artist.

    The millet leaves have fine details in both gold and copper inlay on the shakudo ground. The mounts are signed on the koiguchi, Issai Tomei, by Araki Tomei, a sword-fittings artist of Kyoto and a leading pupil of Goto Ichijo, whose specialty was the sculpture of millet. The quality of the work compares with that of the daisho set of menuki depicting millet overflowing from various baskets by Tomei exhibited in "Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156--1868," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 21 October 2009--10 January 2010.