A Mito school tsuba of mokko gata shape, inlaid in iroe takazogan with two foreigners saluting a flag. Signed Seiryuken Yoshihide. Late Edo period (19th century). The hats and clothing of the two people are not of Japanese style. It is highly probable they are Portuguese. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Japan and enjoyed more than 60 years of trade with Japanese, before the Tokugawa Shogunate closed the country from all foreign influences In the early 17th century.
Seiryuken Yoshihide worked in Mito and Edo during the early part of the 19th century. He is also known by the names Seiryuken Tomohide and Tamagawa Yoshihisa III. He worked for the daimyo of Mito in Hitachi Province before moving his family (and the Tamagawa school) to Edo in 1835. it appears he started using the name Yoshihisa at this time. He died in Edo in April 1839. Some of his works are part of the V&A’s collection of sword fittings in London.
Haynes Index reference – H 11644.0
The Mito kinko school is a fairly late tosogu school to develop. Example schools are Koami-Gunji, Ichiryu, Oyama and Tamagawa. The tsubako known to have started the strong Mito tradition were Yogoro Gunji (died 1681) whose father had studied the Goto tradition under Sekijo and Michitoshi Yatabe (died 1768) who studied under Goto Tsujo and Goto Jujo and then Nara school with Toshinaga. Michitoshi also studied with Yogoro Gunji in his Koami-gunji school. You can see the strong influence of Goto school with Shoami, Koami and Nara schools in their work. Tamagawa Yoshihisa I (d. 1775) studied under Michitoshi and started the Tamagawa school.
Length – 7.5 cm
Width – 6.8 cm
Thickness at seppa dai – 0.3 cm
Thickness at rim – 0.4 cm
Edward (Ted) Wrangham OBE collection, UK
William W. Winkworth collection, UK
Bonhams (London) Sale, 9 November 2010, “The Edward Wrangham Collection of Japanese Art: Part 1”, lot no. 45
It appears that this tsuba might be part of a series. The following example appeared in W.M. Hawley’s ‘Tsubas in Southern California‘ (Japanese Sword Club of Southern California, 1973), no. 417.
At the time Hawley published this book (1973) this tsuba was part of the Joseph Wernig Collection.
As you can see this tsuba features the same two characters and their flag. It appears that the main character (standing) is holding a trumpet and is looking towards a mountain (Mt. Fuji perhaps?).
This tsuba was sold in Christies (New York) Sale, 15 September 1999, “Rockefeller Plaza Collection of Japanese Porcelain and Japanese & Korean Art”, lot no. 214. The description from the catalogue is as follows:
A Tamagawa Tsuba
Signed Seiryuken Tomohide, Edo period (19th Century)
A mokko-form iron plate carved and inlaid with foreign travellers viewing Mount Fuji, one figure is wearing a coat inlaid in gold and a skirt in shakudo carrying a trumpet in shakudo and gold, his companion in robes inlaid in shakudo and trimmed in gold holding a banner in copper – inlaid with Chinese characters. Mount Fuji with a snow cap in silver, the reverse with a third member of the party in similar inlay holding a drum.
Published: W.M. Hawley, ed., Tsubas in Southern California (Los Angeles: Japanese Sword Club of Southern California, 1973), no. 417.
The name Seiryuken Tomohide was used by the third generation Tamagawa Yoshihisa from 1835. He worked for the daimyo of Mito in Hitachi Province. The present example represents his early work.
NB: This tsuba was sold as a lot with another (Sendai-school). The price realized for both tsuba together was US$4,025.
I have also recently discovered a Fuchi Kashira by Otsuki Mitsuoki with a similar scene of two foreigners with a flag viewing Mount Fuji. This is featured in Dr Torigoe’s book ‘Toso Soran’ (page 158) and also in Graham Gemmell’s book ‘Tosogu: Treasures of the Samurai’ (page 83). A scan from Mr. Gremmell’s book is below.
This scene with the two foreigners viewing Fuji san is obviously popular and I would therefore like to know more about its origin.