Carved out of copper alloy with details highlighted in gold.
82 x 75 x 5.8 mm
Southern China, probably Canton
Iron, gold, copper
17th or 18th century
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A very nice iron Chinese sword guard or hūshǒu (護手) literally meaning "handguard". It is of a very classic design, most likely intended for the domestic market.
It is entirely made in the style of the 16th-17th century openwork that was worn by the Manchu upper class and became the Qing court style. Details of its construction, however betray a Southern origin. This is mainly in the shape of the tang plate, with curling bits that remind of lingzhi shapes that often appear there on Cantonese work. Also, the manner of carving appears more Southern than Northern.
The design shows two facing dragons, reaching for a sacred jewel in the center top. The jewel is depicted as flaming, with three flames emanating from it. At the base, also in the center, is a rock that is also often seen on dragon robes, and which resembles earth. Stylized swastikas appear on either side as well.
The rim is a double rim with stylized lotus petals between them, and a beaded outside rim.
The openwork has no less than 18 areas of undercutting. Additional depth is created by the lotus petals being done in double rows, alternating from front to back. A very nice work, retaining much of its original gold.
Copper inserts in the tang opening indicate it has been mounted in Japan.
In good condition, save for some more corrosion at the bottom rim. See photos.
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Of pierced iron, elaborately cut with lotus petal border.
Unusual tsuba with foreign figures and Chinese auspicious symbols.
Pierced and chiseled showing an 18th century European vessel.
Very finely carved with designs reminiscent of export wares.
With the swirling arabesque motifs that are typical for this period.