Ancient Swords and Armour Provide Cutting Edge Pieces to First Fine Japanese Sale At Bonhams

. October 19, 2007

A dazzling array of armour and swords of breathtaking beauty from the 14th to the 19th centuries, forms part of Bonhams’ inaugural specialist sale of Fine Japanese Art on November 6th, New Bond Street, London.

jap-rez.jpgSuzannah Yip, head of Japanese art at Bonhams says: “These are as much works of art as they are military accoutrements. The detail and aesthetics of these implements of war and war costumes, could only be Japanese in their superior quality and effectiveness, light and strong and beautiful all at once. They represent a dark time in Japanese history yet are beautiful to behold. If only they could speak what stories they could tell!”

The Japanese sword occupies a unique place among the weapons of the world. No other society has been able to produce such a fine, cutting weapon, renowned not only for its effectiveness in battle, as well as its alleged spiritual qualities. The fine edge of such blades is a testament to the skill of Japanese swordsmiths. To some extent the beauty of these objects overshadows their lethal qualities. The hues and textures of the different qualities of steel and the varied crystalline structures along the heat-treated edge of the sword are said to resemble natural phenomena such as clouds, lightning or mountain ranges.

The centuries in which these items were in current use was a time of great civil unrest in Japan and some of these weapons and armour would doubtless have been used in battle.

Lot 247 is a magnificent Musashi katana sword blade by Kazusa-no-Suke Fujiwara Kaneshige, from the Edo Period, 17th century – 77.2cm (30 3/8in) in length and estimated to sell for £25,000-30,000.

Lot332 is a Late Edo Period, 19th century set of armour. The fourteen plate low rounded helmet has large rivet heads in russet iron fitted with a neck guard, to the front a gold lacquered fore crest in the form of horns. The peak and turn backs are covered with printed leather. Black lacquered mask) with long white hair moustache and side whiskers. The armour also included a breast and back plate, large shoulder guards and leaf-shaped plates to protect the shoulders, sleeves, thigh guards and shin guards. Together with an armour box it is estimated to attract bids of £12,000-15,000.

Lot 330 is a late Edo Period, 19th century set of armour with a black lacquered peach shaped helmet constructed in four pieces with a broad central ridge and a solid plate neck guard the interior lacquered red. The helmet’s peak and earpieces are covered in iris leather with a gilt horse bit badge of the Shimazu family on the fore crest. A black lacquered mask with a hair moustache and a throat defence. The cuirass of black lacquered horizontal plates with blue cross knots, black lacquered shoulder guards, black lacquered sleeves, thigh guards and shin guards. Unusually laced in groups of lacing spaced vertically largely in blue highlighted with areas of green, mauve and white. This set of armour together with its armour box is estimated to sell for £7,000-8,000.

Lot 329 is a set of armour from the mid to late Edo period, 18th/19th century. The armour includes a 62 plate russet iron helmet fitted with black lacquered neck guards. The front bears a demon crest in gold and red and the face-mask features a hair moustache The body of the armour features russet iron cuirass of five vertical sections, the front plate with a gold lacquered water dragon, black lacquered shoulder guards, russet iron sleeves, russet iron plates to the thigh guards and russet iron shin guards laced in dark blue. The armour comes with its own box. Estimate £3,000-3,500.

Lot 253 is a fine 19th Century tachi koshirae sword scabbard beautifully decorated. The lacquered wood bears formalised waves in gold and partly of mottled green lacquer, overlaid with a large silver dragon and bands of silver clouds. It is signed Naochika and is estimated to attract bids of £6,000-7,000.

Category: Auction News

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