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Provenance:   James Lancel McElhinney Understudy
Subject of dragons chasing jewels (tama) in waves and clouds. Copper (Suaka) Usuniku-bori (sunken relief) with Katakiri-bor (direct line engraving). The rim is decorated in katakir-bori in a Greek key-pattern. Signed "Hirado no ju Kunishige" (H 03650.0). Many small tsuba of this kind were produced on the island of Hirado as shiiremono (ready-made goods) used as business gifts or status symbols. Japanese physicians are said to have worn Nanban tsuba as a way of proclaiming their possession of Rangaku (Hollander learning); Western science and medicine. There appears to be more than one generation signing "Kunishige". The shodai (first generation)may have been a designer, metalworker or both. This piece combines Chinese and European design elements with Japanese workmanship.

"During the 18th century a group of metalworkers using the name "Kunishige" produced sword-fittings in copper, brass and shakudo decorated with Chinese designs, and at times European letters. Their tsuba are not copies of imported guards, but original designs produced after the Chinese style. History has shown that Kyushu at least, was very porous when it came to foreign trade, via Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Tsushima and Hirado. The Kunishige school seems to demonstrate the appeal of foreign influence." (McElhinney)
7.2 x 6.9 cm.

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