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Object Title

Dagger (aikuchi) and scabbard - A Japanese dagger with a reworked European blade

Dagger (aikuchi) and scabbard - A Japanese dagger with a reworked European blade

Date

Early Edo period, 17th century

Object Number

XXVID.190

Provenance

Purchased at auction from Bonham's auction house, 4 April 2007, Lot 26. Previously in the private collection of Clement Millward since at least 1940.

Physical Description

The blade is thought to be from a European hanger, single edged, slightly curved and broad, with a broad fuller at the back and a narrow one at the forte. The blade has a stamped inscription in the broad fuller on both sides; several of the letters are now rubbed almost out of existence and can no longer be made out but those that can are arranged 'F/P??? KEISSER ANNO' on one side and on the other 'ME FECIT SOLINGEN 16??'. The edge has been cut down to form a hira zukuri blade (almost flat on both sides without obvious pronounced ridges), and it has been tempered with a gunome hamon (a pattern visible along the cutting edge which presents as a series of faint waves or semi-crcles of regular size). There is a silver foil covered habaki (collar around the base of the blade). The blade is stamped with a mark resembling a sceptre in an oval on the tang.

The hilt and scabbard metalwork fittings are of heavy gilt metal carved with the Matsuura mon of three stars (represented by three solid circles) in relief on an ishime (roughened texture like the surface of a stone) ground. The hilt is bound with white braid interwoven over brocade.

The scabbard is covered with gilded and painted leather of the type that was popular in contemporary Europe for covering walls and furniture, with a raised texture that was particularly associated with Dutch leathers (goudleer). The leather is tooled and gilt with green and red, and decorated with the same Matsuura mon present on the metalwork fittings of the hilt and scabbard. At the chape is an eyelet with a brown leather loop. The kozuka (small supplementary knife usually mounted on the inside of a saya (scabbard); kozuka refers to the hilt, whereas the blade of the knife is called kogatana) is a namban (foreign) style hilt, with a gold frame enclosing a fretted iron panel decorated with shishi (mythical beasts resembling a cross between a lion and a dog) on a ground of scrolling foliage. The blade is signed 'Kane-' and 'kao'.

The dagger has an associated bag of green Chinese brocade with dragons and clouds in red and yellow.

Featured in

Dimensions

BladeLength341 mm
BladeWidth33 mm
ScabbardLength392 mm
ScabbardWeight178 g
DaggerLength480 mm
DaggerWeight343 g
MountsLength520 mm
TangLength90 mm

Inscriptions and Marks

The blade has a stamped inscription in the broad fuller on both sides; several of the letters are now rubbed almost out of existence and can no longer be made out but those that can are arranged 'F/P??? KEISSER ANNO' on one side and on the other 'ME FECIT SOLINGEN 16??' Stamped with a mark resembling a sceptre in an oval on the tang.

Bibliographic References

C Milward, 'A Japanese sword problem', Apollo, November 1940, pp. 131-2

Token Society, To-Ken, an exhibition of Japanese swords & other items, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1968, no. 95, p. 33, pl. 10

H R Robinson, Exhibition of Japanese armour, London, HMSO, 1965, no. 37 p. 7.

T Capwell Knives, daggers and bayonets, London, 2009: 246, 256

Notes

This is the only known example of a European blade converted into a Japanese sword. The Keisser family of swordsmiths of Solingen include Peter Keissen hu Hessen, active 1625-60.

Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi). Japanese, late 17th century, with a German blade, dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi) with German blade dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi) with German blade dated 1625
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi) and scabbard - A Japanese dagger with a reworked European blade A dagger (aikuchi) and scabbard with a blade made in Solingen, Germany, dated to the early 17th century, later reworked in the Japanese manner and mounted with a Japanese hilt and a scabbard covered in Dutch leather (goudleer). The mounts are decorated with a three-star mon (heraldic family crest) which potentially link the dagger to the Matsuura clan of Hirado, where the trading station of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was based until 1641. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.
Thumbnail image of Dagger (aikuchi) and scabbard - A Japanese dagger with a reworked European blade A dagger (aikuchi) and scabbard with a blade made in Solingen, Germany, dated to the early 17th century, later reworked in the Japanese manner and mounted with a Japanese hilt and a scabbard covered in Dutch leather (goudleer). The mounts are decorated with a three-star mon (heraldic family crest) which potentially link the dagger to the Matsuura clan of Hirado, where the trading station of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was based until 1641. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.