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Namban Tsuba



An early European style tsuba, adapted for Japanese use.  The square central hole was expanded and reshaped to accommodate a katana  7.58 cm x 6.94 cm x 6.4 mm.  $800

James McElhinney wrote:  At first blush it looks like a European guard, or perhaps an Asian guard made for the European market. Small-swords did not come into fashion until the late 17th/early 18th century, when they replaced the heavier rapier and epee as personal weapons. The clamshell guard design (Lissenden calls it "auriculate") survives until the present day on some officers' dress swords. Funny thing is that on this guard, the clamshell/namako elements are not presented laterally; side by side, but one atop the other. 

Small-sword tangs were generally squarish, thus the original slightly tapered square hole. The oval flange (seppa-dai) area is set on an axis that clearly disagrees with the conventional side-by side placement of the clamshell elements seen in European swords. To me this is a "tell" that the piece was produced somewhere along the maritime Spice Routes, by an Asian maker, with a whimsical disregard for European design conventions. The stylized Taotie-like faces on either side of the seppa-dai suggest Chinese origin, but these motifs were in such great circulation it is almost impossible to determine precisely where such objects were made.


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