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Everything posted by Rivkin

  1. My take is more figure-skating oriented. There are technical elements ranked in terms of difficulty and each school has a required set of those, as evident from the masterpieces. For Soshu one expects chikei, one expects nie to be well defined granulars with slowly varying size, if its very best the nie will have a cloud like appearance with clear gaps within. Personally though I like nioi hamon with inazuma and kinsuji, but that tends to be not the very best Soshu of Go but either early or later Sa. Full cloud based for me frankly can be a bit too much. For Bizen one expects midare utsuri. Bizen is seldom judged by hada, frankly, there are some smiths being exception. Add points for composition, add points for consistency of work.
  2. I was stupid not to read Dmitry's book before compiling the Soshu tables... Since he did very detailed and "unjapanese" effort of getting all dated pieces for every smith he discusses from both major old oshigata books and existing blades. Plus he included "poor attributed" blades like Daishinbo, Yoshihiro's father-son-whatever which might or might not be real. And he discusses a lot of arcane subjects. For example there is an opinion that there are no ubu Masamune blades. Kenge nakago exists only for Masamune and Go and a few blades in Soshu... the ones which went through Honami hands. On Ichimonji my very personal impression: 50% of Bizen Juyo pre-Muromachi aside form Ichimonji I've seen were signed, if only partially. With Ichimonji this drops to well below 10%. Did not check the actual numbers, but that's my gut feeling. Ichi are very often on non-ubu blades. This was done after suriage, and most likely in Muromachi. Moreover a lot fo signed Ichimonji, especially nagamei are tanto and naginata... The worksmanship there is in my experience is quite different. For some reason midare utsuri and all the gorgeous stuff very seldom made it to this format.
  3. Its much weirded than it looks! The last dated blade by Norishige is around 1330, Shintogo Kunimitsu is from 1331, Yukimitsu at 1338 Then you have Sa at 1341, Kinju around 1346, Akihiro at 1357, Hiromitsu from 1350s, Nobukuni at 1358, Hasebe at 1346, Tagaki Sadamune at 1351. It is almost never admitted but also signed Shizu Kaneuji are very late - either o kissaki, or oshigata dated to 1350s, except one oshigata which is probably 1345. Yamato Shizu is also 1350s and 1360s. Generally you have reasonable number of signatures from 1300 to 1330. A lot after 1345-1350. Almost nothing in between. Go, Masamune, Sadamune and every other Soshu smiths of the period with a few exceptions like Sa has no signed works from this period. You can sort of understand the daito issue, since when it says "there is a known signature" it very often means there are signed tanto, at least for a lot of pre-Muromachi smiths. But many Soshu people are tanto makers (Sadamune, to the lesser extent Masamune), and in nihonto history unsigned tanto are a weird exception but tanto makers who did not sign their works at all are basically unknown - except for Sadamune! It might just be that the signatures were erased. Edo genealogy was very much shifted backward with Masamune conducting his grand teaching in 1310. So Kinju, Hasebe, Hiromitsu and most others had actually first generation which was active like 1310-1340. Which does not match the dated signatures at all. Might be some Masamune had dates like 1340 which is not unreasonable but if he was to be son of Saburo Kanemune who was supposed to be like 1250s smiths in Edo books, Masamune would be pushing close to 100. And without Saburo Kanemune you have this weird thing that all Kamakura smith are either "Hiro" or "Kuni" or "Mitsu" reflecting the two main families there, and only Masamune and Sadamune are aliens. Plus all these unsigned 1330-1345 names are to an extent similar. Masamune can pass as Go, can pass as Sa, very few calmer ones can pass as Sadamune. Might also be than once the style was recognized, the names were erased if it was Masamune-level. There are records of some of the blades in Dmitry's book like a blade with Uda attribution became Go meito after new appraisal - and its not an isolated story, at some point Uda Kunifusa was not seen as sorry excuse for papers as it is today, but it was potential Go material if resubmitted. You would not have to alter too many signatures actually. Taking 1300-1330 as guidance, for 1325-1350 you would have at best 20-40 signed pieces, almost all tanto. I do heavily believe in existence of Masamune-Go-Sa and Sadamune clusters in terms of attributions, but it feels the highest quality works are from 1325-1345, not 1300-1320 as previously thought, the quality is sky high but the real names might have been a bit different.
  4. Its amazing how much is known regarding the matters so arcane, especially in the realms outside of specialized literature...
  5. I guess one can judge painters by how many are at the MET, though thankfully people seldom go down this path. Accepting the taste of J.P.Morgan's generation might be not a bad thing. The worst is one also accepts without trial or doubt the knowledge of past generations. Yasutsuna was supposed to be the founder of nihonto with Amakuni. Every signed piece of his was seen as the treasure among treasures. If Tomonari is a "top smith", it is worthwhile to revisit the question if it is one or three (two, five) generations. No dealer will ever consider this, since every Tomonari he sells is THE famous Tomonari. Masamune jutetsu... Enough said as it is. Nihonto dealers don't want things to change. They sell certainty. Many if not most, surprisingly, can't kantei at any level and can't work without papers. A silver lining I guess is personally I would gladly take the very best signed by lesser known ko Aoe name over any representative-average of either Tomonari or Yasutsuna. The best of lesser Sa does more for me than the worst of spectacular names. Imposed strict hierarchy - this name is great and this one just a single line in every reference book has some advantages. I've met plenty of Nakayama's students. Its a very niche specialty, a mixture of strict postulates and suspicions. They have a strict table of how they judge blades, with nioi-guchi appearance given a top priority. They do tend to have a good eye for anything unusual, but on the whole it can be weird. Yes, the unsigned portion works a bit like magic. Tons of signed Bizen pieces, except in Ichimonji daito. Tons of ubu Mino works - except the earliest. And its not like late Kamakura blades are that different sugata-wise from Oei.
  6. Rivkin

    Kantei 2

    yes, probably I'll pile onto sue-Bizen wagon.
  7. For individual names across all schools, there is Fujishiro. Not much can be added to his list of sai-jo-saku, with or without "pass ratio" - even if pass ratio is low, it would be a problem of the method not of the name. It also does not work with most lesser names, for the reasons given. If one invents a system which cacluates precise numerical valuation to greatest painters, it will hit the same kind of issues and fail just as much. His method is however useful in detecting schools which are not that well known but at the same time have good chances at papering high. In this sense its a clever technique and shows unexpected strength of schools like Unshu. Does it affect a personal list of "10 best"? No relation. After Compton and Bigelow, no, there are no great collectors in the US. No, they are not in hiding - its often clear who bids what on highest end blades. Small world. The reasons are not due to economy, they are purely social. I've dated enough women to understand the underlying issue. Yes, for many Japanese American nihonto community is at the level "naughty children". Yes, there are (some) good blades in America. This does not indicate the level of its most important collectors. I am happy with what (very little) I have, and don't pretend to have a standing anywhere close to the grand level. I think its an honest response that would work for most people in this thread. No need to stretch it into something its not. The quality of blades in museums - great fittings yes, great blades outside of Japan and MFA - hm... Yes, a typical museum collection kind of reminds one of what Marshall Festig used to have. Yes, a few good ones.
  8. A proper reaction to my Juyo question is "two you say... I wonder why would you choose such an unimpressive number. Guess personal reasons.". Instead the responses were... There is a good Russian saying "arguments of the poor". I know a guy, who knows a guy who knows a guy, and this guy has o-ho-ho, while I pay huuge taxes. There is a reason why in native tongue most Japanese nihonto-nin are (rightly) dismissive of American community. Dozens of journals - "research periodicals" and not a single article out of all of them ever cited in Japan.... for a good reason. No one ever said "we believed Goto Bufu and Goto Tufu to be one and the same, but then there was this publication in America which made good arguments....". Same goes for collections. They feared (rightly) Bigelow. He was a supporter of what we might dismiss as hamamono, but it also served as foundation of modern japanesque aesthetic, evident everywhere from medals to interior design. But at the same time many of his Japanese contacts left us memories touched by the horror they felt while talking to him - how much this man with this much knowledge can take out of Japan if he is willing? His collection in MFA is near the only one outside of Japan which is repeatedly referenced in texts as an example of such and such signature or excellent example of early work. Unfortunately, thanks in part to NBTHK we can't see it. That's kind of Japanese way of doing things - if you have an access to information its a precious well you need to block on all sides and preserve for your son. Its a dealer rather than academic mentality. Back on topic, by comparison British Museums are, well.... BM's greatness is akin to one British Marshall (forgot his name sorry)'s Masamune. They respected (rightly) Compton. The most educated Japanese even know Stone. But when they talk in Japanese of modern American collectors, there is little respect. If you are not satisfied with the way things are - well, write an original, citable article. Chances are its still going to be dismissed/unknown in Japan, but it will be something. Surely, Markus Sesko wrote some, Bob Haynes did, but we can do more. Collect a great blade, if only one. "Juyo level smiths" and "American Jubi" are both interesting things, but from a bit different genre.
  9. American jubi... How many strange things are in this phrase. American market is considered by many as sort of backup... If you need cash there are couple of high profile dealers who will offer you some right away. No, I don't think its actively considered as a destination for really high end blades, and the direction of quite a few recent years' discoveries within America also show that. Its pretty similar situation with other collectibles. American moneyed classes... younger versions of George Soros. Or Jack Dorsey. There are Exceptions like Larry Ellison, but they are rare. Past twenty years everyone on the high end collectible front lived of UAE, Russia, China and a few collectors here and there in up-and-coming nations. Paintings, sculpture, swords... White world is proud to have become apathetic and apologetic.
  10. That seems to be the guy: https://nihontoclub.com/smiths/KAN1623 The signature is heavily shinto style. Hada appears dense But boshi and couple of other elements are Muromachi. Nice transitional piece, I like it. They did decent work and made very few blades towards the end of Momoyama.
  11. Darcy's is admittedly a clever approach which is supposed to address one of the main problems of "value by TJ counts", which is different smiths have very different number of blades assigned to them. So you normalize the number of TJ with respect to number of Juyos, and this supposedly puts smiths "large" and "small" on equal footing. Clever. The problems are obvious. You basically disregard everything post-Nambokucho. And then with Kamakura and Heian blades you have an issue that if its signed the signature itself is a very strong argument for both TJ and definitive attribution. So signed smiths like Bizen Osafune will get a huge boost, unsigned Kamakura smiths will get a downgrade. And then there are dozens of very high (maybe sky high) quality Awataguchi, Aoe and other smiths who are not represented by a large number of surviving, signed blades. And everything unsigned will always have the attribution oscillating between generic one to the school and that to the personal name. You can be a great Awataguchi smith but a natural uncertainty with attributions of your suriage daito (and that's what you made all your life) puts a hard cap on your "pass ratio". The cap which cannot ever be disregarded and which makes your "pass ratio" just "above average". You can further constraint the "pass ratio" theory to account for only the signed blades - but then the selection becomes so small its irrelevant.
  12. How many participants in this thread own (present tense) two Juyo or more?
  13. Ranking by TJ numbers is a popular dealer thing. Simple, intuitive... First you write "this is the greatest smith - he has 50 TJ", the next day "this smith is so rare and precious, there is only one known TJ". Then you praise one Ichimonji guy for 10 TJ, forgetting the only reason he has the whole ten because unlike everyone else he signed and dated - a lot. Then one day Awataguchi Kuniyoshi Juyo makes TJ as Awataguchi. My goodness, Kuniyoshi's pass factor just went to hell! All these years, we must have overvalued this smith, but now the math has finally spoken its truth. And do not forget to spread nasty rumors about anyone commenting like Honma's, Sato's and post-Sato Juyo and even TJ are well, a bit different bag of things. I was told in religious school that doubt is number one tool of Mr. Satan. Nihonto dealers second that.
  14. I don't know and my experience with Japanese collectors is very limited, but there are certainly some with advanced and very specialized interests, including those outside the first tier names if only because some collect items from their home province or city. There are Juyo sessions where you get a flood of blades from the same school, and they came from one person. I think every collector with substantial experience and investment begins to specialize, even if he does not have such goal and buys at random, you just find the same topic over and over in his stuff. I always argued against the advice to specialize for nihonto since its not that easy nor as required as with coins or stamps, but there tends to be at least a certain "look" a person goes after.
  15. I don't know if "museum quality" defines it... There are quite a few people owning pieces from the disbanded what it was called sword fittings museum or something. There are quite a few with pieces which were exhibited at Bizen museum or NBTHK, and some were exhibited at TNM. Any TJ can be said to be "the best of the best", its a tiny sliver which is unexportable and unownable outside of Japan. American collections today are lacking, that's probably an accurate statement, but individual pieces owned can still be the best in their grade.
  16. Well, its a stick. With fumbari which we should not call fumbari. Possibly Kambun shinto. Being more precise requires substantial effort.
  17. Its not worthless - the nakago is in poor condition but not enough to kill it. Regarding the signature, its a difficult question. Overall appraisers are very reluctant to callout any late Muromachi signature as gimei. Handed many a paper with a spoken comment "we suspect the signature was added later" or even one of the phrases suggesting such on the paper itself. There is no guarantee against someone really taking a smith name Sadamune around 1540 and forging in some crazy style. Sometimes they'll note that the work is Muromachi and will issue a paper. The basic reasoning is if the signature matches the style somewhat and if the signature does not directly copy something extremely well known, it will paper. If it says "Rai Kunitoshi" they'll probably not paper it, if its something in suguha and signed "Kunitoshi" - it will paper to Kunitoshi (Muromachi). Even if its an obvious Muromachi ripoff from Kunitoshi and ugly as hell. Sa is one of the most difficult schools to study because they kept forging in Kyushu style until the end. The "dealer speak" is to always involve Masamune jitetsu but the truth is almost everything Sa branches produced in Muromachi is Kyushu-pedestrian. Were this just some ugly work in suguha with something Sa signature, it might have just paper with a note its Muromachi. Here the work is just "too Gassan" to ignore this fact, and there is a conflict - you want to paper it to Gassan, but there is this strange signature in the way.
  18. 1. Sadamune. 2. Shintogo Kunimitsu and any top Awataguchi. 3. Sa and school. 4. Norishige and school. 5. Rai Kuniyuki. 6. The best of Aoe. 7. The best of Yamato Senjuin. 8. Soshu Hiromitsu and Akihiro.
  19. Connection between Bizen and Kaga is not accepted per se, but I personally believe there was one. Not only the names like Norimitsu, Kiyomitsu etc. which might have something behind them, but Kaga (as some others) at times produced full blown Bizen imitations, with crab claws and what's not. One of the problems of Kaga appreciation is difficulty determining "Kaga style" per se - yes there is Tomoshige which are consistent with the first generation, but they are not too common. Yes, it goes back to Sanekage, but you almost never see full blown Norishige school imitation, Tomoshige tends to look a bit more Kinju then anything Norishige-based per se. They are sort of eclectic Muromachi phenomenon through and through, even during the late Nambokucho, with no solid "roots".
  20. For what its worth: Kyushu schools have it quite often, as well as Houju. But it looks different - you have a very prominent line of masame somewhat above the hamon which does a bit of a sinusoid. Its not strictly periodic and also the sinusoid tends to be quite wide with respect to its amplitude. When sinusoid is strictly periodic, high amplitude but rather narrow I personally take this as Gassan.
  21. Longish hirazukuri waki with large sori - Muromachi, likely 1530. The work looks classic Gassan. No comment on the signature I guess.
  22. Still don't see it. I see hadori shaped as crab claws, but hamon remains maybe. Unfortunately the blade is improperly polished. Hadori is heavy and hada is void. It can be sue Bizen, but what comes out from behind this polish in this pictures does raise some questions. Just a personal opinion
  23. Its really hard to say... Tight featureless itame is not Muromachi thing, sugu boshi is suspicious, hamon lacks Muromachi features like crab claws. I don't want to study the mei, sorry, but Muromachi is not something that comes to mind looking at the blade. Can be the polish though.
  24. For some reason kissaki are often burned even if the rest of the blade looks intact. If hamon is visible, even if its close to yokote - ichimai. If its not visible at all - likely burned.
  25. On smartphone it looks legit with no utsuri and the signature is right but it's tembun generation or about. Shinsa yes but I would do budget version on this one
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