Made of shakudo ground with gold and copper iroe (overlay). Very nice katabori and kebori carving. Mumei. Late Edo period (late 17th century). Attributed to Kyo Kinko.
The design is taken from a short and humourous play called Sue-hirogari (literally, something that opens). More details can be found below.
Menuki 1 (Left)
Menuki 2 (Right)
The story is about a lord called Kahômono and his servant Tarôkaja. The lord has arranged an important banquet and needs to find a present for one of the guests. He sends Tarôkaja into the town to purchase a “suehiro with a paper of decent quality and a playful painting”, thinking that his servant will understand that he means a folding fan (i.e. something that opens). The only problem is that Tarôkaja doesn’t know what a suehiro is and is tricked by a con man to purchase an old umbrella (also something that opens). The hawker also offers to teach Tarôkaja a song to sing with such an umbrella. When Tarôkaja returns his lord is very angry and scolds him. Tarôkaja then sings the song and dances with the umbrella. Kahômono sees the funny side and joins in on the festivities. So the moral of this short and humorous play is that it is the thought that counts.
Please see Markus Sesko’s excellent blog for more information about the motif. Click here – http://markussesko.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/suehirogari-a-small-but-fine-tsuba-by-natsuo/. The design also features on a kozuka by Katsuryuken Masayoshi in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (see item 278 in Morihiro Ogawa’s book).