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A Fine and Dated Hoshi-Bachi Kabuto [Helmet]
A Fine and Dated Hoshi-Bachi Kabuto [Helmet]
A Fine and Dated Hoshi-Bachi Kabuto [Helmet]
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The Property of a French Collector
A Fine and Dated Hoshi-Bachi Kabuto [Helmet]


A Fine and Dated Hoshi-Bachi Kabuto [Helmet]
Signed Myochin Shikibu Ki (no) Mune(suke), dated (Genroku) roku mizunoto tori nen gogatsu kichijitsu [in accordance with an auspicious day in the fifth month of the sixth year of the Genroku era - 1693AD]
The helmet of twenty eight plate russet iron hoshi-bachi [star riveted bowl], the round-headed star rivets in columns of eighteen reducing gently in height towards the crown , four hibiki no ana with shiten no byo [cylindrical standing rivets adjacent to holes with decorative braid vestiges of ancient helmet fixture], signed and dated on the inside, hachimanza [decorative surround to aperture at the crown] of eleven tiers, aoiza [base tier] gilt with hoshi rivets on a nanako [‘fish-row’ punched surface] ground, second tier round and gilt with leafy scrolling in raised relief, third tier copper lobed with black enamel inlay, fourth tier (kikuza), fifth tier gilt chrysanthemum profile, sixth tier gilt spreading lotus leaves, seventh tier shibuichi [grey alloy of silver and copper] rounded and pierced with blossoms, further tiers of chrysanthemum washers, and gilt rounded (tamabuchi) central column, four tier black lacquered iron shikoro [neck guard] of shittsuke-zane [plate simulating individual scales] with dark blue kebiki-odoshi [close lacing], large double fukigaeshi [turned-back portions], the central portion clad with red, blue, and white dyed leather with the traditional inscription Shohei rokunen rokungatsu ichi nichi [in accordance with the first day of the sixth month 1351] with and gilt fukurin [edging], applied gilt sasa-rindo [bellflower and grasses roundel] mon [family badges], the hachitsuke no ita [plate of the shikoro attached to the bowl] with gilt hasso kanamono [decorative metal strips] pierced and carved with chrysanthemums among scrolling, the lower tier with large gilt kanamono pierced with scrolling and six further gilt mon, mabisashi [peak] clad with dyed leather and with gilt fukurin matching the fukigaeshi, with three domed rivets one of which securing the haraidate-dai [forecrest fixture], both mabisashi and fukurin having a number of small gilt star-shaped rivets
John Anderson
John Anderson, Japanese Armour: An Illustrated Guide to the Work of the Myochin and Saotome Families from the 15th to the 20th Century, (London, 1968), p.31, no. 19

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Anastasia von Seibold
Anastasia von Seibold

Lot Essay

Although the era Genroku (1688 - 1704) of the inscription is corroded and illegible the cyclic dating of the two characters mizunoto and tori, and the indication of the sixth year of the era, combine to identify the date as 1693. The signature on the helmet, despite the last character of the name being obliterated by rust, is most certainly that of Myochin Shikibu Ki (no) Munesuke.

The Myochin family are believed to have been makers of iron horse equipment during the Muromachi period, and became armourers during the late 16th century. They became well established in competition with the Haruta and Iwai families who were official armourers to the Tokugawa shogun, and made fine helmets signed by highly-regarded makers like Nobuie who is sometimes said to have been the first of the family. In 1680 Myochin Munesuke (1642-c.1735), the maker of this helmet, published a genealogy of the family, the ‘Myochin Rekidai Zokufu’ with a fictitious list of supposed ancestors reaching back several centuries and from then on the family flourished forming branch schools in the provinces. Sometime during the middle Edo period the Myochin grew in confidence to style themselves On Katchu no Kiwame-dokoro, Nippon Yuitsu no Katchu no Ryoko [official appraisers of armour - the best armourers in Japan], and this is sometimes found inscribed on their work. By the middle Edo period the Myochin were well known for their manufacture of all components of armour from iron plate, often decorated with inlay or embossing. Myochin work reached its high standard of excellence largely due to the energy and skill of Munesuke, perhaps the greatest of the Edo Myochin, who actively promoted the name of the school. Munesuke was the first of several generations of skilful makers of armour, articulated iron animals (see lots 128, 129 and 130), and tsuba [sword guards] using the name Shikibu up to the Meiji period, and the work of the first generation is perhaps the highest-prized of all.

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