NEW YORK – The unsurpassed workmanship of Japanese artisans is showcased in a Jasper52 online auction of antique Japanese sword fittings, including tsuba, kozuka and kashira. Pulled from a private collection, 70 exquisite lots will be sold Wednesday, Dec. 5. Absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.
On a Japanese sword, the tsuba is the metal handguard, which is typically elaborately decorated. A tanto is a Japanese knife typically carried by samurai warriors. A 19th-century tsuba from a tanto is offered in the auction. Made of shakudo, an alloy typically consisting of 96 percent copper and 4 percent gold, this tsuba (above) has raised and inlaid decoration along the rim of a dragon flying among wispy clouds, all on a finely punched ground. The piece is in excellent condition and shows extraordinary workmanship. It is expected to sell for $700-$800.
An 18th-century iron tsuba (below) in the auction has a square shape with cutouts in the corners, making it appear as a cross—possibly a hidden Christian reference. The body is decorated on both sides with stylized undulating water dragons with gilded horns and whiskers, and three raised ideograms—a picture or symbol used in a system of writing to represent a thing or an idea but not a particular word or phrase for it especially—which are different on each side. The tsuba is 5/16 inches thick, which makes it pleasantly heavy. It is an elegantly designed piece in excellent condition (est. $800-$1,000).
A 19th-century sword tsuba of sentoku (copper alloy with zinc, lead and tin) has a multi-metal inlaid decoration of a dragon in flight among clouds and above cresting waves. The design continues on the back, showing parts of dragon’s body in openings between clouds and waves hitting a rocky shore. The dragon’s face and body are inlaid with shakudo. Its beautifully defined scales and the waves are accented with gold and silver inlaid droplets. The tsuba is signed “KOTO” (est. $600-$700).
The kozuka is a decorative handle fitting for a kogatana, a small utility knife that fits into a pocket. An early 19th-century kozuka offered in the auction is decorated with three playful tigers in different attitudes on a punched ground. Each tiger is done in a different metallic finish with crisp detailing and rich patina (est. $400-$500).
The kashira is the butt cap, or pommel, on the handle of a Japanese sword. A 19th-century kashira that has multi-metal inlays depicting various flowers among golden foliage is offered in the sale with a $250-$300 estimate. Made of shakudo, an alloy of copper and gold, this kashira has the characteristic black patination resembling lacquer. Elegantly design in Japanese taste, this is superbly made piece with crisp metalwork, inlays and gilding, in excellent condition.
Menuki are ornaments on a Japanese sword’s tsuka, or hilt to fit into the palm for grip. A pair of 19th-century menuki depicts Immortals: a reclining female reading a scroll and a seated male with a war hat and a bow holding a bird. These bronze pieces are in excellent condition and exhibit superb casting and detailing in fire gilding and silver inlays (est. $700-$800).
The Jasper52 online auction of Japanese tsuba and sword fittings will be Wednesday, Dec. 5, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time.