Asian export sword guard
Height & width

77 x 74 mm

Thickness

5mm

Weight

107 grams

Origin

Southeast Asia. Later mounted in Japanese style.

Materials

Iron, gold, silver.

Dating

Unknown.

Use

Has been mounted.

Price €1200, -

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Description

Iron tsuba with raised motifs and a separate rim. It features two animals on each side that elude identification. They look like mammals at first glance, like sloths. The arms and legs of the animals have flaps on them, making someone suggest they were perhaps giant flying squirrels. They may also be a fairly nonstandard rendition of dragon. The style has a very southeast Asian feel to it.

The sunken relief seems to have been done by a process of etching and carving and the animals are highlighted in gold with silver elements, now darkened with age. The original tang-aperture appears to have been round or oval, later adjusted to fit a more conventional tang.

The two apertures imitating the hitsu-ana, the apertures for the Japanese pin and knife called kogai and kozuka, are too small for actual use and thus purely decorative. Such apertures may be a hint towards origin. In those areas of the world where Japan exported weapons from the 14th to the 17th centuries, metalworkers absorbed the form into their pattern-books of ornament. They are seen a lot on Vietnamese saber guards, and to somewhat lesser degree the saber guards of surrounding cultures.

The black rim seems to be a later Japanese edition, and made of a copper / gold alloy called shakudo that was patinated to a deep dark blue. The original guard may have been larger.

Comes with depicted hand made wooden box for storage and display.

Conclusion

This extremely rare guard is an enigmatic piece in many aspects. It has a nonstandard tang aperture and features iconography of strange animals that elude identification. Quite possibly a one-off piece commissioned for unknown reasons somewhere in Southeast Asia.

Asian Export Sword Guard A
Asian Export Sword Guard B

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