Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
PietroParis

Cross-shaped Shoami tsuba

Recommended Posts

Hi All,

 

My new Shoami tsuba has arrived this morning. As I find it devilishly difficult to take decent pictures, I'll just be lazy and use one from the seller:

 

post-4945-0-93719000-1593775181_thumb.jpg

 

More pictures can be found in the auction page, and the translation of the NBTHK paper was discussed in this thread. I am happy to report that the oxidation spots visible in some of the seller's pictures are really unremarkable in hand. There are two questions that I would like to ask here:

 

1) Does the cross theme imply that the tsuba was made before Christianity was banned in 1612? Was there a 19th-century revival even for Christian tsuba? Or maybe this cross is just not meant as a Christian symbol?

 

2) The design of this tsuba looks distinctly skewed, e.g. the arms of the cross are not really at right angles and the rectangle made by the two hitsu-ana is not centered in the circle of the mimi. Am I right in supposing that this is not due to the maker's drunkenness, but rather to the Japanese taste for humbleness and imperfection?

 

Thanks in advance for any help! 

 

Cheers, Pietro

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Pietro, Congratulations!

 

Although the Christian element is quite likely, this one has built-in deniability, as with the *Kutsuwa Kamon/Mon. See recent separate thread on Kutsuwa Tsuba. Older Christian symbols did not need to deny anything so they may have been more overt.

 

The crookedness can be seen positively, as proof of being worked by hand.  :thumbsup:

 

http://www.militaria.co.za/nmb/topic/31737-kutsuwa-tsuba/

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think your guard is close to the 'Lock' pattern, I have seen these also described as 'Kites' and 'Cruciform'. I think too many guards are described as 'Hidden Christian', The Japanese had many cross shape designs that had nothing to do with Christianity.

post-3736-0-90022200-1593780129_thumb.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This design is described as 十字角 ("square cross", or something like that) in the NBTHK paper. I am not particularly hung up on it being a Christian symbol, I was just wondering whether that would put the tsuba in a specific time window.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMHO a cross is at least a basic design, which could be found in tsuba frequently.

Certainly it could be interpreted as a christian symbol.
I have still no idea about the meaning of the prominent squares. These could be the clue if a christian background is intended.

Slight irregularites in geometry maintain a livley design, if drawn by rulers a cross would possibly appear tedious.

 

Florian

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello, Pietro. 

The museum collects the tsuba that Christians had during the Prohibition Period.

I do not know enough to explain the characteristics of the Christian Tsuba. Please refer to the image.

 


As for the tsuba you got, the rust is more advanced that I can't see the original surface.

I'm not sure, but seppa-dai may be lower (thinner) than mimi. It has a shape that is older than the middle of the Edo period.

 


 Don't care about the slightly distorted shape.

It is similar to the beauty of "へうげもの Hyouge-mono" which Japanese tea masters loved.

 

Yas.A



post-5433-0-75399300-1593824888_thumb.jpg

post-5433-0-48360000-1593824903_thumb.jpg

post-5433-0-62740500-1593824919_thumb.jpg

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Translation of above

"Hello Pietro,

Museums collect tsuba that were owned by Christians when it was outlawed. I am unable to describe exactly what defines a Christian tsuba, but please look at the illustration. https://www.sawadamiki-kinenkan.com/

https://www.sawadamiki-kinenkan.com/20160522_tokyoNP.jpg

The recently acquired tsuba (*yours?) has a rusted surface which makes it impossible to see the actual original surface. Although I cannot really see it properly, the inner Seppa-dai may be thinner in cross-section than the outer Mimi rim. This shape could indicate that it is earlier than mid-Edo. Please do not worry about slight warping. It has some commonality with that beauty that Japanese tea afficionados describe as 「へうげものひょうげもの」, Heugemono, hyougemono... (*bent, hairy, amusing, crooked things?

Yas/Yasu"

 

*Apologies, Yas, for a very rough translation. Please correct any mistakes in meaning. Piers

 

cf  https://crd.ndl.go.jp/reference/modules/d3ndlcrdentry/index.php?page=ref_view&id=1000131604

言葉としての「へうげもの」の意味としては、『角川古語大辞典』第5巻 中村幸彦編 岡見正雄編(角川書店 1999年 p271)に以下のように説明がある。

 「へうげもの」=【剽輕者】滑稽なふるまいをしてみせる者。ひょうきん者。
 「へうげる」=【剽輕】ひょうきんな言動をする。おどける。

なお、『へうげもの古田織部伝』桑田忠親著 矢部誠一郎監修(ダイヤモンド社 2010 p190~)や、『利休そして織部』池田瓢阿著(主婦の友社 1989年 p74~)などにも説明がある。

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yasaka san,
Thank you for your input on these posts recently. It is great to get your views and advice.
Thanks for the help there Piers. We are blessed with the members we have.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many thanks to Yasaka San for the kind input, and to Piers for the translation! I am a bit puzzled by the comment on the rust preventing you from seeing the original surface. If I decipher correctly the description of the tsuba in the NBTHK paper, it reads 槌目地  ( tsuchime ji ). I took it as meaning that the rough ("hammered") surface of the tsuba was part of its intended appearance. There are indeed some slightly rusty spots, but they are far and between, and not as prominent in hand as they look in the pictures. Are you suggesting that the whole surface of the tsuba was badly corroded in the past and then re-patinated? Is that not something that would disqualify the tsuba from receiving the Hozon grade?

 

Cheers, Pietro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

P.S. the seppa-dai is indeed thinner than the mimi. Even the square hitsu-ana are slightly thicker at the outer edges than at the inner ones, as can perhaps be appreciated in this picture:

 

post-4945-0-97309800-1593862309_thumb.jpeg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you, too. Brian. I am also enjoying.

I am glad that foreigners love Japan's hand guard. But it's a little sad that Tsuba leak to foreign countries.

 


The  condition of the tsuba is not so bad. Pietro, don't worry.

If this Tsuba mimi was a little more angular, NBTHK might have identified it as "尾張 Owari".

When an appraiser is uncertain about a decision, he often names tsuba "正阿弥 shoami".  It's not bad at all.

 

Regards.

Yas

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like that tsuba, although not thinking it is "Christian". I particularly like the shape of the hitsu ana and the "country" look of the cross members not totally symmetrical. Maybe it's in the big bag of Shoami due to the hitsu ana, but my inclination is Owari and early Edo.    

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have seen reference to the box shapes on the guard being called 'Masu',  originally a container measure of rice, when it was a common form of currency.  The design of the hitsu then becomes something more than standard hitsuana?

 

WIKIPEDIA  : A masu (枡 or 升) was originally a square wooden box used to measure rice in Japan during the feudal period. Masu existed in many sizes, typically covering the range from one to (一斗枡 ittomasu, c. 18 L) to one  (一合枡 ichigōmasu, c. 0.18 L).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Piers

It is a pity that 'Unique Japan' don't know this fact.

Masu-Measure-Rice-Sake-in-Japan.jpg

 

I have two guards of this design, so the design is also not 'Unique' as the above would have you believe.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Piers, if I'm not wrong the tsuba with a square masu that you show above is number 65 in Sasano's book. A few pages earlier, I see this one (number 61):

post-4945-0-08099500-1594029019_thumb.jpeg

 

Let me stress again that the identification of my tsuba's design as a cross comes from the NBTHK paper, and I do not particularly care about whether or not it is a Christian symbol.

 

Cheers, Pietro

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It looks like a Nested Masu crest. Masu is also the name of the castle defense facility.

Nested Masu is rather a symbol of a merchant. It's a little surprising that a samurai attached a tsuba with a merchant's design to his sword. If I look for it, I can see that a tsuba with such a design actually exists. Well, maybe there is.

 
Yas

post-5433-0-83449200-1594030752_thumb.png

post-5433-0-21079700-1594030777_thumb.png

post-5433-0-22043600-1594030797_thumb.png

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pietro

The thickness of the hitsu outline [thicker than the four joining bars], to my eyes make this the major design element of the guard and there must be a meaning to it, Yas's crest theory may well hold water.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Masu" is also translated with "growth" and thus it is a symbol for luck and success. In interlaced masu forms these wishes become multipled.

Due to this meaning it makes sense to attach this particular design on tsuba.

 

Here's an other example:

post-919-0-21400100-1594053879_thumb.jpg

 

Florian

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

......the description of the tsuba in the NBTHK paper, it reads 槌目地  ( tsuchime ji ). I took it as meaning that the rough ("hammered") surface of the tsuba was part of its intended appearance.....

Pietro,

 

if you imagine how small a hammer face would have to be to produce the actual surface of your TSUBA, you will understand that considerable corrosion caused it. A 'stippled' surface is indeed often misinterpreted as TSUCHI ME, but in fact it is made with a TAGANE (chisel). 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pietro

The thickness of the hitsu outline [thicker than the four joining bars], to my eyes make this the major design element of the guard and there must be a meaning to it, Yas's crest theory may well hold water.

I think the crest theory referred to your example from the “Unique Japan” page (note that he mentioned nested masu). This said, I agree with you on the prominence of the hitsu block.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pietro,

if you imagine how small a hammer face would have to be to produce the actual surface of your TSUBA, you will understand that considerable corrosion caused it. A 'stippled' surface is indeed often misinterpreted as TSUCHI ME, but in fact it is made with a TAGANE (chisel).

 

So the patina grew back after the corrosion? Shouldn’t this have disqualified the tsuba from getting papers? You are an expert on metals and I am absolutely ready to accept your theory, I am just trying to understand.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If this Tsuba mimi was a little more angular, NBTHK might have identified it as "尾張 Owari".

When an appraiser is uncertain about a decision, he often names tsuba "正阿弥 shoami".  It's not bad at all.
 

 

Pietro. I totally forgot that I own a  Owari style tsuba. What do you think this is a design for? You should remember Brian's icon. 

There are many products that claim to be Owari in the market, but there are few opportunities to find a true Owari.

 

Yas

post-5433-0-01826800-1594123928_thumb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Left and right are clearly two torii. Up and down I am not sure. Arrows? Birds? Leaves? How would they be related to the torii? This tsuba clearly has a story to tell...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So the patina grew back after the corrosion? Shouldn’t this have disqualified the tsuba from getting papers? You are an expert on metals and I am absolutely ready to accept your theory, I am just trying to understand.

Pietro,

 

patina can develop in different stages. What we call 'patina' is mainly black iron oxide (Fe3O4, or more precisely, FeO x Fe2O3) in different layer thickness. Red rust will continue to grow on a piece of steel if the condition (oxygen and moisture) is favourable. Black rust is much slower and - under certain circumstances - can even be a kind of protective layer.

 

Your TSUBA has suffered a bit from corrosion, but still all traits of its provenance are visible, so it is still a nice SHOAMI sample. I see no reason why it should not be papered. However, its market value will probably be lower than of one in perfectly healthy condition.

 

I include some photos of steel samples with naturally developed 'patina' on corroded surfaces. If you look around in Paris, you will find more of this, e.g. handrails on stairs, door handles, manhole covers, a.s.o.  

 

The sword below (photo 6998) is the door handle of my forge, and it is often touched by people. Photo 7000 shows a tiny rail from a mine train (made about 1830 and pulled out of the mine in about 1960). Photo 7001 is a piece of old Swedish knife/tool steel that was forgotten in a moist place. Photo 7004 shows a handforged hatchet (about 100-150 years old). The ferrule of it is considerably more corroded than the steel of the blade (photo 7006). The patina is a very deep brown.

 

I apologize for the non-Japanese samples in the photos, but steel behaves all the same wherever it is attacked by corrosion. I just wanted to show different stages of corrosion which can also be seen on iron TSUBA.     

 

post-2033-0-86558300-1594137583_thumb.jpg

 

post-2033-0-84877900-1594137610_thumb.jpg

 

post-2033-0-21185800-1594137633_thumb.jpg

 

post-2033-0-86695300-1594137662_thumb.jpg

 

post-2033-0-74270800-1594137683_thumb.jpg

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many thanks Jean for taking the pain of explaining your point with details and pictures. I assume you are right in stating that the rough surface of my tsuba is due to extensive corrosion rather than being part of its intended appearance. Should I then consider the mention of 槌目 tsuchime in the NBTHK paper as erroneous, or were they somehow able to infer the original look of the iron? Also, you can see in this picture that the inner areas of the openwork (e.g., inside the hitsu-ana) look much smoother and less corroded than the outside surface (I can take other pics if that's not apparent). Is it because, over the centuries, those areas were more protected from casual touching? 

 

Thanks again for all the help! Cheers, Pietro

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pietro,

I know that the surface of TSUBA was generally hammered, polished (MIGAKI), cut, filed, sawed or treated with TAGANE (ISHIME among other techniques, e.g.chemical treatment). Ford could write a book on this, and I think he is working on it.

We don't know exactly what the SHINSA team had in mind, and they are surely not wrong. We have to consider that TSUCHI-ME does not really mean the technique (using a hammer) but the looks of it in a generalized description of the appearance. ME is 'eye' in Japanese, so it means 'looking like' (hammered). Also, the SHINSA team has certainly some difficulties describing the surface qualities of TSUBA which are no longer in good or original condition. I have never heard about them describing a TSUBA as 'corroded', otherwise they would probably reject it if it was too badly preserved. 

For a research, I think it would be wise to see many (good) TSUBA of that school and that age and compare them.

As a craftsman, I can tell you that SUKASHI TSUBA cannot be hammered completely into shape. There are a few different techniques involved, but of course the base plate has to be forged (= hammered) into the desired shape. So 'hammered' would generally not be wrong for most iron TSUBA.

Concerning the SUKASHI of a TSUBA being in better condition: I have seen that a number of times, and indeed it could be caused by a better protection against the moisture from hands. But sometimes TSUBA might have been protected with wax or - more probable - with lacquer, and these coatings will probably remain longer in the SUKASHI and do their work. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...