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Ronin 47

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Posts posted by Ronin 47

  1. I saw this same sword for auction, and thought about bidding on it for a split second. 


    Needless to say I didn't even bother, for some of the reasons already stated. Lots of red flags on this one, the saki-zori being but one. 


    While I certainly hope I am wrong, for the buyers sake, in my opinion there is too much money, and not a lot of scholarship on Live-Auctioneers. I don't know how many times I saw something on there, went to look at it in person, and ran away as fast I could, only to see someone pay insane prices based on sloppy photography. 


    Happened again today.  Was looking at a possible late 19th century Chinese vase made into a lamp. It had two huge cracks in it, and the more I looked at it the more suspicious I became. Even if real, the price payed was way over market. 


    Coming back to this sword, 19k+22.5% buyers premium+tax+restoration...yeah, I think you get the point. 



    Austin R 


  2. 3 hours ago, PNSSHOGUN said:

    Do you consider the fine beautiful lines of a Spitfire as art? Were these created as artistic flourishes rather than highly practical design choices to allow superior performance on the battlefield? Yes, fine Japanese swords from the Nanbokucho  period are considered art pieces now, but they were not created to be art pieces. They were created as serious weapons, and the attributes we so admire and appreciate today are the results of forging techniques being refined to produce better weapons, not whimsical study pieces. 



    Your taking a 20th century example from a post-industrialized Western nation and trying to apply it to a pre-industrial 12th century society in East Asia. Personally, I find the Spitfire to be a very aesthetically pleasing piece of machinery, but I am not going to put it, or insert your favorite classic car here, on the same level as a Rembrandt.


    Once again, these clear categorical boundaries between art and utilization did not exist in these societies when the Japanese sword was in use as both a weapon, and as, yes, a whimsical study piece ( or more accurately as a means of reaching a transcendent understanding of the self and ones place in the cosmos.) Which is why many swords over the centuries have been donated to religious sites within Japan. Contrary, nobody, as least as far I know, has donated a Spitfire to St Paul's Cathedral as an act of spiritual reverence. Take for example this quote about the influence of Confucian philosophy on aesthetics in East Asia:


    "Confucian philosophy addresses the issue by first stressing the development that artists must undergo in acquiring their arts, emphasizing the development of artistic ability and ultimately the process of person‐making. Practicing an art is necessarily a moral affair as it entails transforming the self, finding a place within a tradition, and otherwise entering into significant relationships with others. Second, Confucianism also says something on the matter of the relationship between aesthetic and ethical value. It denies the moral autonomy of works of art and argues that art objects should serve the interests of the communities and states that they inhabit."


    That last sentence "art objects should serve the interests of the communities and states that they inhabit" explains why in pre-modern Japan the sword could be viewed as both a weapon that serves the state, but also as symbol of ethical value personified through the finest craftsmanship/artistry. This is what 

    Nitobe Inazō meant when he wrote the following: 


    "The sword-smith was not a mere artisan but an inspired artist and his workshop a sanctuary. Daily, he commenced his craft with prayer and purification, or, as the phrase was, ‘he committed his soul and spirit into the forging and tempering of the steel"


    Or D. T. Suzuki when he said:


    "The sword is the soul of the samurai, we must remember all that goes with it – loyalty, self-sacrifice, reverence, benevolence,...” 


    During the Kofun Period (250-538CE) Animism was introduced into Japanese society. Animism is the belief that everything in life contains or is connected to a divine spirits, which is why you even have myths of spirits helping sword-smiths create these objects, such as the story of Munechika who was helped by a fox spirit, forging the blade kogitsune-maru ("Little fox"). This is illustrated further by story in The Nihongi, which has a particularly fascinating tale about a short sword that has a mind of its own, and how its disappearance from its owner’s cabinet, Kiyo-hiko, caused a great surprise as the story relates bellow:


    Last night the short sword came of its own accord to thy servant's house; but
    this morning it has disappeared.The emperor & was struck with awe, and made
    no further endeavor to find it. Afterwards the sword went of its own accord
    to the Island of Awaji, where the people considered it a God and erected a
    shrine for it, in which it is worshipped until this day.


    It is even assumed thought that the linguistic origins for words that pertain to “swords,” in the Japanese
    language, such as “tsurugi,” have their origins in the context of implements used in Shamanistic
    rituals (Naumann, Nelly, and Roy Andrew Miller. Old Japanese Sword Names and Stories Relating to
    Swords. Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 382-384).


    So in conclusion, while we in the materialistic reductionist West can view these things as purely weapons or commodities, that is most certainly not how the people who owned, cared for, and passed them down to us today viewed them for most of Japanese history.  

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  3. I think the notion that Nihonto were "weapons first art object, way after" is a very Western reading of a Japanese art object, as where Japanese aesthetics would certainly not make any such clear distinction. Yes, the Japanese sword had a very specific utilitarian function as a weapon that was designed to take a human life, but it was also a social signaling object that indicated that the owner possessed not only the technological means to take a life, but also the social standing in which to do it (remember this a feudal society that made these objects, were basic civil rights for the average citizen were not even codified by and large until the Edo period). 


    Furthermore, a tea bowl also has a utilitarian function of holding hot liquids to drink, that didn't stop the Japanese, and most societies within East Asia, from regarding the finest tea bowls, such as Song Dynasty Jian ware, as being viewed simultaneously as high-art. This same principle applies to Nihonto. For example, in the poem "The Song of Japanese Swords" Ouyang Xiu, a renowned poet of the Song Dynasty, he described Japanese swords as "It is a treasured sword with a scabbard made of fragrant wood covered with fish skin, decorated with brass and copper, encases the white sword and golden blade, and capable of exorcising evil spirits. It is imported at a great cost."


    A mere weapon would never be described in such terms. This is obviously something revered, not only from a monetary perspective, but also from a religious one. In other words, it was considered an art-object, and a divine one at that. Part of its divinity is derived from the very fact that it can take a life, or alternatively, protect one. I find it almost impossible to believe that the Awataguchi (粟田口) smiths were trying to produce mere weapons. No, they were trying to produce a holy object fit for a living god in the persona of the emperor and his consorts at the imperial court, as were their counterparts producing imperial porcelain at Jingdezhen. While it is true that all swords are weapons, it not necessarily true that all swords were not also art. 

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  4. Thanks Jussi!


    While I might of missed that one by a wide country mile, it was an informative exercise all the same. Beautiful Naginata, and a real treat to see such an early signed and dated example. 


    Austin R.

  5. 18 hours ago, Gakusee said:


    Thank you George and  Austin, for the great reminders. While I was aware of the other swords, I had not read about the Yoshifusa one. Is that one published or documented similarly to the other swords? 
    Thank you! 

    Hi Michael, it should be in one of the Juyo Zufu, not sure which one? 

  6. Blades:

    • Ubu Niji-Mei Ichimonji Yoshifusa Tachi
    • Pre-war kokuho Soshu Hiromitsu wakizashi
    • Ubu Enbun Kanemitsu Tachi


    Kodogu (I know you said swords, but just in case : )

    • One of the Mosle collection Shodai Nobuie tsuba
    • One of the Mosle collection Shodai Kaneie tsuba 


    To name but a few. 




    • Like 1
  7. On 1/25/2022 at 4:03 PM, IanB said:

    Paz, To my knowledge, no educational establishment runs courses on Japanese swords or armour, although SOAS may run courses on Japanese history that mentions them in other contexts. The Royal Armouries have run seminars that might include some details and we have a video running in the gallery showing a blade being made. When I was in post I used to do Gallery Tours that often involved answering quite probing questions by members of the public. Even better were those occasions when cases were opened and you could take items out and show visitors the items close up and talk about them. These were times when I felt I was performing my curatorial functions properly. Sadly too many curators are barely interested in the displays, never mind the visitors.

    Ian Bottomley.


    When I was a Masters student in Asian studies at Leiden University, or Universiteit Leiden if you prefer the proper Dutch, I wanted to do my Master's thesis on the material culture of the Samurai, particularly around Nihonto.  Needless to say, the academic powers that be were not as enthused as I was with that research topic. Ended doing something more "publishable,"  to appease the thinly veiled academic snobbery.


    Needless to say the entire experience put me off the academic track, despite having to suffer through another more "practical"  M.Sc in London to compliment my now redundant MA. For all aspiring student's of art, the only thing I can say is if you talk more about Heidegger, Foucault, and Baudrillard then the works themselves your A) On the wrong course, and B) Should run for the hills, no matter what the supposed subject is being taught. From friends who went to SOAS I wasn't under the impression the situation was drastically different/better there.   


    However, I will caveat the above by saying that some PhD student did manage put on a spectacular exhibition of Armor at the SieboldHuis, so at least someone was more competent at navigating Das Schloss ('The Castle') than I was. 

    • Like 1
  8. I can second the The Wallace Collection in London, probably one of the finest collections of medieval European arms and armor anywhere in the world, plus the spectacular art collection upstairs.  


    I was a bit disappointed with the The British Museum, I know they have a spectacular collection of Japanese arms and armor but most of it wasn't on display when I lived in the London.  Chinese porcelain on the other hand is a different story. Ditto the V&A. 


    Unfortunately never got up to the The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, but heard great things. 


    Not in the London, but the Oriental Art Museum in Venice probably has the most comprehensive collection of Japanese arms and armor that I can remember seeing in Europe. 


    For some reason most Western museum curators have an aversion to displaying these things, either because they have no idea what they are or they have lowly opinion of objets d'honneur chevalerie. Kodogu get a bit more play in the museum space, but the blades typically play second fiddle. For instance, I think recently the MET in New York even reduced the number of Nihonto on display, not that they ever had that many on display to begin with.  



    Austin R

  9. Thanks for the feedback!


    I am not so sure it is one from Kyōhō (1716-1736), it looks like a Muromachi period work, possibly around MEI-O (1492). There were apparently a couple of smiths signing this way in Bungo that were an offshoot of the Rai school, so might be something like that:   http://www.sho-shin.com/sai11.htm


    Will have to look through the books and see if I can locate another example of one signed with that cursive 州. Bit more difficult doing research on these lesser known smiths as they don't typically get much coverage in the reference books. 


    If anyone comes across a similar signed work let me know? 





    Austin Ross

  10. I got as far as Shinto-Soshu, and my mind automatically went Horikawa school. 


     I did think of Satsuma at one point, but the shape made me think it was a bit earlier. I guess hindsight is 20/20.


    Thanks for the exercise! 

  11. Hi all, 


    Selling a few Tsuba for a friend:


    1.) A Saotome Mokogata Sukashi Tsuba with designs of Mushrooms; Mid to late Edo?


    325.00 USD 


    2.) A Saotome-Tempo school Mokogata Sukashi Tsuba; Mid Edo.


    275.00 USD


    3.) Later Kaneiye style tsuba, with design of geese and reeds, possibly Saga; Mid to late Edo?


    175.00 USD

    4.) Not sure of the school, late Edo period, rather thick. I am assuming there was more inlay once upon a time. 


    125.00 USD

    *All prices exclusive of shipping and insurance (if so desired). 


    Please PM me if you’re interested in one or more of the above or need further pictures.


    PayPal would be the preferred method of payment.



    Austin Ross 




  12. This is absolutely horrible news! 


    I was very lucky some years ago to be introduced to Kodama-san by Jim McElhinney, and Kodama-san was kind enough to give me and my mentor a private viewing of his spectacular collection. 


    Kodama-san and his wife were incredibly gracious host and some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. 


    Absolutely disgraceful to take away a collection he spent a lifetime putting together. I certainly hope he is ok and the police find the crooks who did this and put them behind bars and return this collection to its rightful owner.  


    Thank you David for positing this, as it is important that the wider collector community is aware of this. 

    • Like 1
  13. Much like the last auction at Tessier-Sarrou, this was a very interesting auction. 


    While I did bid on a couple of items, I unfortunately didn't come away with anything this time around. The overall quality of the items was high, but the prices, in my opinion, were a bit absurd. Perhaps the winning bidders were largely finding their valuations in the koshirae? As outlined above, some of these prices were approaching juyo level, and with the astronomical buyers premium, I felt that such gambling was best left to those who can indulge. 


    There might have been a couple of sleepers, but I felt that the first auction had far more items in that category than this one.  For instance, lot 22: the Mumei Katana, struck me as a shin-shinto piece. Even if one is assuming it is Nambokucho, at  10,000€+ what is one exactly hoping that it turns out to be in order to justify that initial investment? You can buy this https://www.aoijapan.com/katanamumeiyamato-shizu/ for 16,792.59 Euro, which given the cost of polish and papers (assuming it even stands a chance of juyo) is about the same price. 


    Granted, I couldn't attend the auction in person, so perhaps the items in person really were worth the prices they commanded?  But is this https://www.tessier-sarrou.com/lot/116199/15882150? a 20k item? Somehow I feel that the provenance of some of the items had more to due with the prices than the items themselves.  


    Boring market talk aside, they were almost all very lovely things, and hopefully will be cherished and taken care of for many generations to come by whomever was lucky enough to take them home. 

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