• Arts of the Samurai  auction at Christies

    Sale 2378

    Arts of the Samurai

    23 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 32



    Price Realised  


    Late Kamakura-early Nanbokucho period (14th century), Unsigned, Attributed to Yoshihiro
    Sugata [configuration]: Shinogi-zukuri, narrow mitsumune, broad with substantial koshizori curve and slight fumbari, o-kissaki
    Kitae [forging pattern]: Finely forged itame rich in ji-nie, moist with much chikei
    Hamon [tempering pattern]: Wide yakiba of o-notare and ko-notare impressed with gunome, many nie ashi and yo, with yubashiri and sunagashi in deep nioi and nie and patches of strong nie
    Boshi [tip]: Midare-komi with some inclination to shimaba and hakikake
    Nakago [tang]: Ubu, shallow kijimata (pheasant thigh), katte-sagari file marks, two mekugi-ana, kengata-jiri
    Habaki [collar]: Single gold clad simulating double habaki
    Nagasa [length of blade]: 64.1cm
    Koshirae [mounting]: Silver and gilt hiru-maki no tachi copy of the National Treasure in the Nifutsuhime Shrine on Mount Koya, Wakayama Prefecture, the gilt quatrefoil tachi tsuba with nanako ground with stylized floral hanabishi motifs, with four inome piercings, gilt strips of linked hanabishi lozenges as tawara-byo, the mekugi with chrysanthemum and paulownia roundels, wood tsunagi equipped with a single gold-clad copper habaki

    Together with an old shirasaya bearing an inscription by Hon'ami Nagane, and on the iriko insert the inscription Matsukura Go Yoshihiro Shinpin nishaku issun yonbu Taiunkutsu Chinzo

    The blade accompanied by a certificate of registration as a Tokubetsu juyo token (Especially important sword) no. 676 issued by the Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Art Sword), dated 2000.4.28

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    Yoshihiro was a native of Matsukura no Go in Etchu province (Toyama Prefecture). He is said to have studied with or under Masamune in Kamakura, and must have been close to Norishige of Etchu, said to also have been a pupil of Masamune. The 1719 Kyoho meibutsu cho (Catalogue of famous things [swords in shogun and daimyo collections] compiled in the Kyoho era) lists seven blades by Yoshihiro of which five are today designated either Kokuho (National Treasure) or Juyo Bunkazai (Important Cultural Property).

    This sword is the only known piece attributed to Go no Yoshihiro in its unaltered original length. With the characteristic jihada and hamon of Yoshihiro, the original shape with the koshizori curve suggests an earlier date than is usually given for work by this smith. A vermillion lacquer attribution to Yoshihiro by the nineteenth-century sword polisher and appraiser Hon'ami Nagane is no longer discernable on the tang. A small triangular sword-cut on the mune about 9 cm from the machi tells of the use of the sword in combat past.

    The Kyoho meibutsucho records eleven swords by Yoshihiro, none signed. The same document ranks Yoshihiro with Awataguchi Yoshimitsu and Masamune as the "Sansaku," or "Three Great Smiths," showing that although no signature was known for Yoshihiro, his blades were defining signature enough for the connoisseurs of the day. It is not surprising that after the publication of Kyoho meibutsu cho the three hundred or so daimyo each would have aspired to possess at least one work by the "Sansaku," of which there were but few by Yoshihiro, leading to the saying "You will never see a changeling or a 'Go'."

    The 1607 Kaifunki ranks Yoshihiro "as skilful as Masamune and not beneath him." In fact, the work of Yoshihiro is different from that of both Masamune and Sadamune, and in many ways more refined. The outstanding feature of the blades is the clarity and brilliance of the jigane, very much in evidence on this blade. While the activity within the hamon of Masamune's work is prominent and almost violent, that on the work of Yoshihiro seems an essentially deeper part of the whole composition of ji and ha. This sword is nothing less than a masterpiece.


    Hashimoto Dokuzan

    Pre-Lot Text



    Japanese Sword Museum, Tokyo, 2000.5.16--6.4; 2002.1.8--3.24
    Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History, Mito, 2000.2.12
    Toyama Prefectural Ink Painting Museum of Art, 2004.11.12--12.19