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waljamada

Edo period Christian themed tsuba

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Saw this tsuba for sale and it caught my eye.  I haven't seen anything like it.  Christianity has some old roots and complicated histories in Japan.  The Martin Scorsese movie "Silence" touches on a period of this and the University I graduated from JoChi has a part in this history as well

 

"The origins of Sophia University could be traced to 1549 when Saint Francis Xavier, a prominent member and co-founder of the Society of Jesus, arrived in Japan to spread Christianity. In his letters to his fellow Jesuits, he had expressed hopes of establishing a university in Japan.[10][11]

During the so-called Kirishitan period of Japanese history, the Catholic Church had been responsible for establishing and administering educational institutions in Japan called Collegios and Seminarios, serving as bridges between the East and West.

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William H. O'Connell had been appointed as a special ambassador of the Vatican to Japan.

The establishment of the University only began to take place more than 400 years from St. Francis Xavier's arrival in Japan. In 1903, three Jesuit priests from Europe came to Japan to continue the missionary work of the Church and to help establish Sophia University. One of the founders, Fr. Joseph Dahlmann, SJ from Germany, who had come to Japan via India, had listened to the requests of Catholics in the country, who expressed their desires to construct a Catholic university to serve as the cultural and spiritual base of the Church's missionary operations in Japan."

 

Anyways, cool tsuba I thought would be fun to share.

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There are few points that start my alerts... First, the papers doesn't match with the tsuba, second, doesn't seem Heianjō work, third, there is many Christian tsuba, but never saw one so explicit like this. Even the confessed Christians tried to hide his condition, even before the banishment, I was at the kakure kirishitan Shimabara castle museum and never saw something like this. When they try to represent the Virgin Mary they did it with the image of Kanon. 

But the maybe the most important thing. At least in Spain, since some years, some people are buying old tsuba sometimes mei, sometimes mumei, without decoration, or with less decoration. Edo tsuba that you can find in a basket in Japan for less 10.000¥, and they bring it to Spain and with the help of silver worker and goldsmith's, they put Christian images and sell it like rare museum works for more than 800€. Also some of this people are taking blades forged in China and even Spain, mounted with this kind of old cheap Edo koshirae, use chemistry for imitate urushi, and finally sell it like original nihontō museum work, for more than 3000€ Even sometimes they buy tons of NTKK and NBHTK and sell it with the works even if don't match at all. For example, a paper of wakizashi for a Nihontō. I know that this is also working in Germany, where some people are posting Chinese blades with cheap Edo koshirae like a Nihontō. In this case they make false papers with nakago pictures of other swords. 

The piracy is going more "clever" and we need to stay alert. 

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This is where we need @Ford Hallam's keen eye.
I agree, this is highly suspicious. Why would they so blatantly offer papers for a different tsuba? Do they mention it in the listing?

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Tsuba on the paper looks similar to this one which is quite different from the original post one (First picture)... On another hand, it is not  rare to see some "Kunihiro" tsuba with "Christian" topics added in modern times (second picture)

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Edo Tsuba Kirishitan Kunihiro signed (3).jpg

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On one front the seller can be defended, the link to the sale leads to his other items which include two such tsuba of different designs.  Both are papered and in the photo that Adam posted he has got the wrong paper though in a later photograph he has the right one.  There are some good close ups which don't make me feel any happier about them.

 

Check it out here, https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Japanese-antique-Kirishitan-Christian-Edo-Katana-Tsuba-Virgin-Mary-NTKK-NBTHK/133610863100?hash=item1f1bd3f9fc:g:YpQAAOSwpxNf3egI

 

The closeups reveal a 'halo', (sorry, couldn't resist it), of fresh rust around the nunome zogan which is a concern.

 

All the best.

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Yip. On his other listed one for sale, I think it is fairly clear that the cross is added later.
 

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I'm agree with Marcos, I have seen this Tsuba before, as well as other parts intentionally modified to look like what they are not. These practices were denounced in this forum,  maybe not this piece in question, but they are the same people that try to sell "museum quality" pieces, adding "rarity" in their descriptions and they are forgeries or very low quality Japanese parts. It is an issue that directly affects the small community that we have in Spain, since it stains the reputation of what we love and respect in addition to giving a bad image to the international community.

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Do I understand correctly that NTK papers such as the ones shown in these pictures are not to be trusted, since they are issued by a seller as opposed to an independent panel?

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Just in case here is the correct papers.  Totally missed that the papers didn't match the tsuba in that photo. 

 

Interesting development on this one as you guys have shared a glimpse into the "underground" Christian tsuba market.  What would Jesus think!? 

 

The title of the listing mentions nbthk but only seems to have the ntkk document (posted below) and really does almost try to appear like an nbthk document to untrained eyes. 

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For those interested in the Sophia Museums collection of 'KIRISHITAN'  tsuba - 

https://digital-archives.sophia.ac.jp/laures-kirishitan-bunko/view/kirishitan_bunko/JL-TSUBA-1650-KB1

[it is a little difficult to find through Google, but I stumbled on it years ago] Like all Museums I have my doubts on the age of some of it's collection.

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To be fair, the papers describe the tsuba itself and the maker Kunihiro, but they do add regarding the inlay, 象嵌は後代別人の作である一鍔 or 'the zogan on this tsuba is the work of someone of a later age/generation'.

 

Personally speaking, I like some of the Christian tsuba, of all sects, both overt and hidden. Plenty of food for thought as to what went on in Japan over the centuries before the beginning of Meiji. There was a time when they were openly displayed, and a time when the imagery in them was perforce subtly and of necessity 'deniably' hidden.

 

As a returnee Christian from the US, Jo Niijima came back and built a church in Takahashi in 1882, after he founded Doshisha University in 1875 in Kyoto.

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Not ethical imho. The NBTHK would bounce that. To "paper" a tsuba and then say the decoration was added later is like passing a sword but noting the mei was a later addition.

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Dale,

 

Wow, thank you for showing that link.  I lived in a dorm (which has been torn down since like most of the old campus buildings) on JoChi's campus and never saw that they had a "museum" space.  Neat little collection.  

 

I guess as the paper does admit it was done "later" it seems an accurate thing.  It attributes the tsuba to its original maker and says it also has this thing done by someone else.  Guess if their role is to attribute things in an official manner it does that correctly.  It seems worthwhile to have an organization that will honestly paper odd ducks (yet real antiques even if modified) to clarify what is there and is/isn't original.

 

Reminds me of this sword below that has now sold on ebay.  The papers don't mention a horimono so it just attributes/ confirms the blades maker/mei.  I had wondered what the nbthk would do if asked to paper it now.  I'd think they would do like this tsubas papers.  Confirm the mei and state horimono added more recently type thing. 

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