Kô Gotô Kôgai 古後藤 笄 from the late Muromachi period 室町時代後期. Attributed to the second mainline master, Gotô Sôjô (後藤 宗乗) by the NBTHK (Tokubetsu Hozon) and the Nihon Tosogu Bijutsukan (日本刀装具美術館 Japanese Sword Fittings Museum). Published in Kô Kôgai (Furu-Kôgai Item #401, page 432). Shakudo construction with a fine nanaKô-ji (赤銅魚子地). This Kôgai is kata sagaru 肩下がる (the shoulders are rounded). Sôjô (後藤 宗乗 1461 – 1538) was the 2nd head of the mainline Gotô family. He was the second son of Yôjô and his common name was Jiro. He renamed himself Sôjô after he entered the priesthood and shaved his head at the age of 40. It’s often said that Sôjô’s carving style is similar to his father’s though more sophisticated.
This is a very pleasant theme depicting Biwa 枇杷 (loquat fruits) in takabori iroe 高彫色絵 with 3 leaves in shakudo 赤銅. While Biwa are of course fruits and are to be eaten, the wood of the tree was used especially for Bokutô 木刀 (wooden swords) and combs 櫛と. The leaves of the Biwa were also used in medicine. The fruit on this Kôgai are quite fine and very nicely done.
The iroe 色絵 is finished in the uttori (うっとり) technique. Uttori is a technique that covers the subject matter of fittings with a thin gold foil and is attached without the use of glues or other methods of sticking.A small dovetailed groove is chiseled out around the design and the gold sheet is fitted into the groove. The grove is then closed over with a chisel holding the foil in place. One of the more appealing things we find is that in many instances, the tops of this uttori are peeled away. This can be both a deliberate feature added at the time of manufacture, as well as happening with wear over time, and revealing the shakudo underneath. This feature can be seen on the tops of the Biwa on this piece. This technique and the peeling effect is synonymous with the early Goto and Kô KinKô artisans. Some artists in the later Edo period tried to copy this effect with gold plating. Lastly, it is said that uttori has a purer gold colour than plated or solid gold fittings..
There are 4 small droplets of gold on the leaves, 2 on the left, 1 in the middle and 3 on the right. The two outer leaves face towards us, while the smaller one in the centre has its back to us. Also, behind the top cluster of fruit and along the bottom of the lower cluster is a small branch in shakudo. The shakudo is a rich black in colour and the nanaKô that remains is very fine. The nanaKô is almost worn from the Jiban 地板 in 2 places but this is quite common for a piece this age and adds a certain aesthetic.
The Warabite 蕨手 is complete and very nicely rounded. It follows in the tradition of Kô Gotô in that the centre section that curls off into the 2 circles is short. Longer sections tend to indicate either different generations of Gotô work or different schools.
Size, Total length 213mm, width 12mm and Sao width 6mm.
The description from Kô Kôgai translates as follows.
第401図 Dai 401 zu
Loquat Theme, Done in shakudo with nanaKô ji, Mumei (Sôjô), Muromachi Jidai Atoki.
The fruits of loquat are to eat but its wood is used to make Bokuto (木刀 = wooden sword) and also combs. As well as this, its leaves were used as medicine. This picture shows fruits and thick leaves of loquat with the skilful technique of Takabori (高彫).
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