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Cloisonne enamel fittings.


IanB
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With the restrictions imposed on society, it now seems an eternity that I have managed to attend an arms fair, having to make do with on-line auctions as a means of acquiring the odd item. Earlier this year I was attracted by a sword listed by an auction house here in the UK. The description and photographs were not particularly encouraging except for one photo of an oxidised silver kojiri of the leaves and seed head of rice that writhed in relief around the black lacquered scabbard. Hovering above this were sparrows in gold and coloured lacquer. Another rather out of focus image taken of the hilt and tsuba, viewed from the kashira end of the tsuka showed the latter was missing and that the tsuba was textured in some way. To cut a long story short, I bid against another and won the auction, paying rather more than I had anticipated, but in retrospect an acceptable amount. On collecting the sword from the auction house, I realised I had acquired what is probably the finest sword it has been my good fortune to own.

 

I won't go into the details of the blade here, that turned out to be potentially one heck of a bonus, concentrating on the fuchi and tsuba. As the title of this post indicates, it turned out that the 'texture' I had seen in the initial photographs was caused by the wires and partial enamel fill of the cloisonne decoration. I have never pretended to know anything about sword fittings, but I did know that the Hirata specialised in this technique and generally did small badge-like motifs in cloisonne that were then attached to tsuba and other fittings. In this case however, the whole surface of the tsuba and fuchi have been gilded and covered with the raised  wires, enamel being confined to only a few places and only becoming obvious when examined closely. I've never seen anything like these and I wonder if it was more common.

small tsuba.JPG

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Ian, if anybody deserves a horidashimono its your good self.  Congratulations, looks a real winner.   I haven't seen much cloisonne in my time but those I have seen went from the extraordinaire knock-your-socks-off to the Meiji gorblimey stuff.  Looking forward to details of the blade and photos of any other fittings.

BaZZa.

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Ian,

You are quite right that Hirata specialized in cloisonné (shippo 七宝), though their work is usually quite subtle, with small cloisonné insertions into iron or shakudo plates (though of course there are exceptions with the full plate being rendered in cloisonné). Another school which also worked in cloisonné was based in Nagasaki, and who commonly made sukashi tsuba in yamagane or shinchu/sentoku which were then accentuated with cloisonné. There is also a third grouping, of Edo shippo, which are usually quite crude  designs of flowers or insects on shinchu/sentoku plates, which seem to have been produced in late Edo/Meiji and were primarily for export. Of these three groups, I would say that yours is closest in design to the latter. However, it does appear to be much better quality than other Edo Shippo I have encountered. Amongst the foliage are some very well rendered cloisonné motifs, it also appears to have a shakudo fukurin (rim around the tsuba), and if it is gilt, rather than shinchu/sentoku, that would also suggest that it is higher quality than common cast brass plates seen in Edo shippo.

Kind regards,
Kyle

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I've only got one shippo piece:

shippo_front_flattened.thumb.jpg.88fd6ee586a3150e90b693d824662faa.jpg

its different on the back - for a psychedelic experience:

 

 

coposited_phychadelic_cropped.thumb.gif.5592ead74f5a4b6d6f46fefef29bd575.gif

 

Best,

rkg

(Richard George)

 

 

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Ed, Obviously there was a vogue for these decorative enamel fittings. My first impulsive though was that they were probably popular among the merchant class, and they possibly were. What I have not mentioned so far is the quality of the kojiri on this sword, nor that of the blade. I attach an image of the kojiri that is of silver, only partially inlaid into the lacquer so that it is in relief. Applying lacquer into the spaces between the stalks and leaves and then polishing it must have been a nightmare job. 

Ian Bottomley  

DSC_0007 (3).JPG

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I have a few cloisonne enamel pieces. I also apologize for the crap photography. These are really old shots and I haven't bothered to retake them yet with my (somewhat) improved photography skills.

 

Mounted on a Morimasa wakizashi:

20181010_230519.thumb.jpg.544cc9fa60d2ab2c479932bbc185c04c.jpg

 

Second cloisonne piece:

20181010_230504.thumb.jpg.cebc740e8babe7b071fda0ee86a825a5.jpg
20181010_230525.thumb.jpg.d39a6fa1413212ea4ca2b544b59f2884.jpg

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Ed,  Yes I will have session with the camera. You will have to excuse me for a couple of days as I am now inundated with son, nieces and associated bodies staying. Trying to entertain and feed the assembled mob is demanding enough.

 

Chris, I was looking at your tsuba and trying to figure out the symbolism when it occurred to me I had seen something similar on an uchiwa. I think the filled and unfilled dots might represent auspicious and unlucky days of the month.

Ian

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Is it being picky to point out that Cloisonne enameling involved the creation of a design using raised edges attached by soldering to a metal base- gold, silver, copper or an alloy of these. The solder attaching the design pattern needed a high melting point because the coloured enamel was applied in paste form (water I think) and fired in a kiln to melt the enamel. Different coloured enamels apparently melted at different temperatures so that requiring the hottest was the first fired followed by further firings for those needing less heat. A number of consecutive firings may be needed depending on how many colours were utilized.

Champleve enameling is where the design to be used is chiseled or somehow cut out of the metal background and the finished, enameled article is flush with it's background surface. The enameling can be finished off by grinding.

I think I have it right and will soon know if not.

I have never done enameling but have owned an Indian dagger with excellent champleve enameled scabbard fittings C 1800s, almost certainly made in Lucknow, a well known centre for this work. Also a sword pommel with a champleve enameled finish, almost certainly French from a very long time ago..

Roger 2

 

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8 hours ago, IanB said:

Ed,  Yes I will have session with the camera. You will have to excuse me for a couple of days as I am now inundated with son, nieces and associated bodies staying. Trying to entertain and feed the assembled mob is demanding enough.

 

Chris, I was looking at your tsuba and trying to figure out the symbolism when it occurred to me I had seen something similar on an uchiwa. I think the filled and unfilled dots might represent auspicious and unlucky days of the month.

Ian



Interesting! I had wondered if it had to do with some kind of theme of balance, with the alteration of colors. But that explanation of yours makes a lot more sense!

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