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Craftsman error?


Deez77
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Greetings all, 

 

I'm new to the NMB, and this is my first created thread (although I've been reading through the archive). I'm hoping for your valuable input regarding three tsuba I have in my collection which display what I can only assume are some type of error in their creation. Intriguing to me, really.

 

It's as if the Craftsman only realized at some point during the construction that the line he took wasn't quite right, and the tsuba's strength/structural integrity would be compromised (when struck?) if a small "spacer" wasn't created for reinforcement. You can see them circled in the image. Certainly, it's not an embellishment of the design/motif, as it distracts from the design (in my opinion), so what are they really? And is there a proper name for them?

 

Thanking you in advance for your guidance.

 

Damon

received_5158962467552632~2.jpeg

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Thank you all very much for your input.

 

I do find these little things strange, given how exact and deliberate I imagine Japanese craftsmen being, and the fact that most tosogu have some very specific design theme/motif.

 

As you all have said, I would also expect all of these works to have been planned, designed, possibly sketched out well in advance of the actual work beginning. In that case, why these obscure little "joiners" were included in that form, as a visually separate/different thing, and not just part of the overall design, is surprising to me. 

 

I guess, potentially, it just made sense to include them for the extra strength/durability aspect in as simple a fashion as possible. These craftsmen were operating a business after all. 

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The circular 'dots' often represent water drops or dew - understandable on the wave and jar guard as well as the plant leaves one. Perhaps something else on the nakago one? Water is not something you would associate with sword tangs after all.

 

One here in a similar vein to the leaves design. 

image.thumb.png.81dd519bdec2b84611a1e7c9ff98584c.png

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As others have mentioned, in the case of the nakago-themed tsuba, these holes are very deliberate. In my opinion, they were intended as udenuki-no-ana - holes in which a throng would be placed to be used as a wrist strap to prevent the wielder from dropping the sword (much as you see with smart phones today). However, as the tsuba itself is mid-Edo, when there were no battles, the holes were most likely intended to be decorative features, rather than serving any functional purpose. You can read up about udenuki-no-ana (and sayadome-ana) here: 

 

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Hi Damon,

Welcome and nice tsuba.

I have a couple of comments/questions regarding your post.

1.       A very common linking element in sukashi tsuba is karigane (geese).  I’m Ok when they form part of the design (see Kyo-sukashi mokko tsuba with 24 karigane), but in tsuba #2 (saddle, whip and bit, by Hidemitsu) there is a single karigane at the 1 o/clock position, which has no apparent association with riding equipment.  Why were karigane so popular when they have no apparent connection with the design?

2.       I particularly like your Echizen ju Kinai saku tsuba with the broken pot and waves.  I have recently been trying to find out more about this design. The RB Caldwell masterpieces collection had an almost identical one attributed to Yagyu (see pic of tsuba and catalogue description).  Not papered and does not look Yagyu workmanship to me.  The second is on sale at Aoi Art (see pic) and has a NBTHK Hozon attribution to Kyo-Shoami, which looks right to me.  Its interesting how three similar tsuba can be attributed to three differing Schools.  Also I’m intrigued by the design, a broken pot and waves, which does look like it might be Yagyu originated.  What does it actually signify?  There is a Torigoe reference to a Japanese legend (see pic) on the RBC tsuba, but I don’t have access to this.  It is also reminiscent of the Kurasawa film Kagemusha in which Takeda Shingen is buried at sea in a giant pot.  Anyone got more info?

Best regards, John

(just a guy making observations, asking questions, trying to learn)

Kyo sukashi karigane.jpg

Hidemitsu riding equipment.jpg

RBC Yagyu tsuba.JPG

RBC text.JPG

KyoShoami.JPG

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Wow. Some great points from everyone. I can totally see how the joiners look like drops of water in some cases, and will need to look into udenuki-no-ana a bit more, so thanks for the resource. 

Yes JohnTo, for something so we'll planned out, these joiners don't make much sense to me either. Why not just make a completely cohesive design that doesn't require these little additions. Very interesting observations about the broken pot tsuba. If there are multiple examples of the same design signed by artists from various schools, and an unsigned one goes for shinsa, how do they determine which school to attribute the piece to? Majority rules? Thank you all for your contributions. Very insightful.

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[One drop missing from the last image from John B above.]

Damon you might pick up the difference two little drops of water can make to the 'pot' design. 

From a sold lot - https://www.japaneseswordbooksandtsuba.com/store/holbrook-tsuba/h272-akao-school#

 

Described as Akao school

IMG_1530.jpg?itok=RhadAhDE

 

This design is certainly popular - https://www.christies.com/lot/a-round-iron-kyo-shoami-tsuba-edo-period-5618009/?intObjectID=5618009&lid=1

and back to the full drops on this Christies auction piece. 

Described as Kyo-Shoami school.

So it looks like the design had its own little changes depending on the artist. 

image.png.78250d24a2703d20488815abf366de8c.png

 

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Dear All.

 

Iwonder if the image of the jar is not a sake jar and the strange joiner not a gourd?  If that is the case then perhaps the design references this. https://lordsofthedrinks.wordpress.com/2018/01/28/the-Japanese-folk-tale-of-the-sacred-white-sake/

 

Seems a pleasant fancy if not the right answer.

 

All the best.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello again all,

 

I came across another strange (to me) use of those "joiners" on a tsuba on Japansword.co.jp. For something so well planned and thought out, it's still puzzling (to me) why a craftsman would include these.Screenshots_2022-07-19-20-19-13.thumb.png.80f0dc2589dc03482a760caee1260e72.png

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Hi Jean,

 

Thank you very much for your comment. Others have mentioned the use of those elements as stimulated waters drops (or dew) as well, and I can see how that would work in certain motifs with the small ball-shaped ones, but the two in this recent example look nothing like water (to me at least) which is why I find them unusual. I mean, nearly the whole tsuba had obvious water elements, so those two circular bits just don't seem to "fit in" if you know what I mean.

 

Screenshots_2022-07-20-17-21-42.thumb.png.1e4867a065d26ad602c71d2a90ac5ddd.png

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Damon, 

 

perfectly understandable!

 

But as often in arts, we use symbols which after a closer look do not picture reality. One famous example (from the Isenheimer Altar by Matthias Grünewald) is the picture of John the Baptist with his exaggerated long index finger:  https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHBF_deDE888DE888&source=univ&tbm=isch&q=Isenheimer+Altar+Wikipedia&fir=im6NnjpY-cjFYM%2CzmNXIBRB7R5hHM%2C_%3BGJT5c9OcEb0ixM%2CL1EWQPphEq_Q3M%2C_&usg=AI4_-kSa12NWktJLJhQL2WR9PWPzAB9rgA&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwidocyS44f5AhVHuKQKHeYWC5MQ7Al6BAgUEAI&biw=1440&bih=702&dpr=1.1#imgrc=7taVYoKNi3BzSM

There are many more examples like PU-TAI (or HOTEI in Japanese) who are often depicted as very fat monks. These are often thought to be statues of the BUDDHA, but in fact they are symbols of the God of Happiness: https://www.google.com/search?q=God+of+Happiness+PU-TAI&rlz=1C1CHBF_deDE888DE888&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiGk_Cz5Yf5AhUWrKQKHaB5D5AQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1440&bih=702&dpr=1.1#imgrc=-T-xxe-6z_ppuM

 

Or look at the giant waves in HOKUSAI's wood print  https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/45434.

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Yes. Well said. I guess that's just it. Those parts were put there intentionally. They're most likely got to symbolize something... it's just not clear what that is. Thanks again.

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Half the fun of collecting, is working out what is being portrayed at times - Art even conventionalized Japanese Art is still in the eye of the beholder. I suspect many designs are just as obscure to modern Japanese as they are to Westerners.

 

What does this represent? A skull or Jason's hockey mask? For that matter, did it start out as a tsuba at all?  The adventure goes on. :)

image.thumb.png.148a4c3dc3c12ec342b8eb451eb7e55b.png

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Another piece from my collection with a different type, but similarly odd 'error' on it. Strange that the 'acorn' has this shape, and why would there be double parts of the leaf on the other side?

 

I wonder if others find these strange bits on their tsuba.

 

205855928_PSX_20220729_0022042.thumb.jpg.b7b7bbc5445cddff3e6dd339375074ef.jpg

 

PSX_20220729_002248.thumb.jpg.f110b3ca6917fde778da0cc2002985ac.jpg

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Damon,

 

I don't know what it is, but it is not acorn, I think.

And please leave the idea of errors behind. A good TSUBA is made in a meticulous and time-consuming process, not with a 'swoosh' like an ink-painting. What is shown looks like a stem of the fruit to me.

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I agree. There are no mistakes. These guys worked in schools of craftsmen, and most of these tsuba came from pattern books, and had lots of identical ones made. I wonder how many tsuba in the low to mid level are unique?
They didn't just sit down and start cutting. Everything was planned and calculated.

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It is an acorn, mho, as you can see others more clearly delineated, think of the stems as lying on the ground in a jumble, one on top of the other. I think then you'll see the artist has lots of room to include or omit parts, which we as viewers can fill in with our minds eye...

 

-tch

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49 minutes ago, ROKUJURO said:

And please leave the idea of errors behind. A good TSUBA is made in a meticulous and time-consuming process, not with a 'swoosh' like an ink-painting.

 

Thank you, yes, I agree... it's definitely not the appropriate way to describe these unique features. I'll refrain from using that term. 

 

However, I've seen many examples of this design before, but not these extra little parts like an extra part of the leaf and the disfiguration or bump on the acorn's shell.

 

Screenshots_2022-07-29-20-49-21.thumb.png.229cbc16a1754d93a691826b84bb482a.png

 

Screenshots_2022-07-29-20-50-22.thumb.png.416a6d061c3584d115d462c5c99178d4.png

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On 7/29/2022 at 7:01 PM, ROKUJURO said:

.....I don't know what it is, but it is not acorn, I think.....

I have to apologize for my mistake. It is of course oak leaves and acorn. I did not look up the translation before posting.

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