Lot 304

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Japanese Sword Guard
Japan, various
45 Tsuba From the Collection of a Lifetime Connoisseur of Japanese Art and Arms
We are pleased to offer a collection of 45 antique tsubas – Japanese sword guards – comprising a finely-curated lifetime collection of a passionate connoisseur, and offering many variations, styles and artistic embellishments in the choice pieces within. This collection also contains two important and difficult-to-obtain reference books on this ancient art form, making it a wonderful addition to the treasures of an experienced collector and a sophisticated assemblage for nascent enthusiast alike.
The sizes of the tsuba range from approximately 2.33" x 3.25" to a substantial 3.5" x 3.25", with much variation in thickness and weight of the metal consistent with age, artistic embellishments and style of the tsuba. The overall fine condition of each example varies widely with age and amount of use, therefore we invite bidders to view this beautiful collection in our Wilton offices.

Our collection provides a comprehensive array of styles, eras and artisanship, with several early examples offering a minimalist and functional design with heft and strength but little adornment, while others from 1800 onward display museum-worthy artistry and detailed metalwork. The tsubas are crafted from both iron and soft metal (known as kinko), with many examples displaying intricate raised forms, designs and sacred symbols in silver and gold. The reverse of 18 tsuba in this collection bear engraved artist's marks, making them most worthy of further research, and while some of these fine examples sell in the $300-1,000 range, there are many which are valued at $1,000 and up.

Tsubas are traditionally crafted from metals such as iron, copper, and brass, and are often of mixed-metal construction with raised forms in gold, copper and silver, and sometimes with gold, copper or silver inlay. Many designs include traditional Japanese motifs such as flowers, koi, cranes, dragons and so forth applied to the surface or inlaid into it, while others display openwork with figurative or symbolic designs.

While the collection offers a fantastic array of examples, several tsuba deserve special attention: the first depicts 75 monkeys representing human sins, each adorned with gold eyes, all of which are present; a Sane Sapa with Kikihan; a beautiful copper example depicting a scene with silver cranes and birds in flights in silver, with intricate trees in copper, also maker-marked. A third specimen is an openwork Takabori-Ji-Sukashi from the early 1800s, depicting the legend of Sasaki Moritsuna; an Itachi No Kami Fujiware; a fine iron example with gold; and many many more.

Additionally, this fine collection includes copies of two important reference volumes for the tsuba collection. The first is Japanese Sword Fittings: Collection of G. H. Nauton by Henri L. Joly (Hollywood: M. W. Hawley, 1973), 317pp folio hardbound with dustjacket. One loose leaf from the book depicts one of the tsuba in our collection, and of course there may be more. Dustjacket bears significant wear and loss to top edge, but the interior pages of the book are quite clean. Together with: the comprehensive volume Japanese Swordsmiths Revised by compiler and publisher W. A. Hawley (Hollywood, 1981), 1075pp. folio hardbound leather with gilt title at cover and spine. Creasing to spine, otherwise in very good condition.

The Trusba, Simplified: a tsuba balanced a sword such as a kitana, waizashi or tanto, protected the hand of the sword holder from an attack by an enemy, and prevented the user's hand from slipping down the hilt of the blade. However, the relative peace of Edo period for the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries allowed the tsuba to develop from a strictly functional object into an art form in and of itself. Indeed, it became a veritable status symbol of its owner, much like the way in which jewelry or other adornment functions today. Tsuba designs became replete with luxurious ornamentation and displayed a complex artistic style and true workmanship. As samurais were not permitted to wear adornment such as jewelry, the tsuba became a symbol of their personal style. The design and crafting of tsuba became an art form in and of itself, exhibiting extraordinary aesthetic sensitivity and utilizing the most complex of metalworking techniques. As such, tsubas have become prized treasures for collectors of Japanese art.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


  • approximately 2.33" x 3.25" to 3.5" x 3.25"
  • Artist Name:
  • Japanese Sword Guard
  • Medium:
  • Other

Accepted Forms of Payment:

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Applicable shipping and handling charges will be added to the invoice. We offer several shipping options, and remain one of the few auction houses who proudly provides professional in-house shipping as an option to our clients. All items will ship with signature required, and full insurance. Most items are sent via Federal Express, with P. O. Box addresses being sent through USPS. We insure through Berkley Asset Protection with rates of $.70 per $100 of value, among the lowest insurance rates in the industry. Our shipping department cameras document every package, both outgoing and incoming, for maximum security. In addition, we compare our shipping and handling rates against those of other auction houses, to ensure that our charges are among the lowest in the trade.

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May 15, 2024 10:30 AM EDT
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000