The dimensions are 79mm x 79mm x 3mm
The design is typical of the Umetada group. Finished in a positive/negative sukashi seperated diagonaly. The Negative ‘In’ sukashi (陰透) shows the Kamon of the Hatakeyama clan (畠山氏, Hatakeyama-shi) Originally a branch of the Taira clan, and descended from Taira no Takamochi, after 1205 the Hatakeyama came to be descendants of the Ashikaga clan, who were in turn descended from Emperor Seiwa (850-880) and the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. *1 The Positive ‘Yo’ (陽) sukashi appears to be perhaps a water wheel or may be stylaised birds.
The black material covering tsuba is most likely a ‘poor mans’ urushi. This material covers the seppa-dai on one side, over the sekigane. Noted from a collector who specialises in pre Edo fittings, he said “I showed a similar tsuba to several people at the SF show, and the Japanese dealers said it was a ‘poor mans’ urushi. Essentially a mix of thin lacquer and black ash, or lacquer mixed with, or applied over pitch. It has a very granular feeling when it flakes-off because the ash clumps when mixed with the lacquer. My tsuba also dated to the Momoyama to early Edo, so I imagine that this material was used extensively during earlier periods, but just isn’t preserved very often because it was of such low quality…. a field dressing perhaps.” Seeing a tsuba with this much urushi, be it high quality or low as be the case in this instance is pretty rare in this day and age.
Robert Haynes writes in his auction catalogues of 1994, that this type of work was very typical of many of the Ko Umetada tsuba 古埋忠, and also of Umetada Tadatsugu who worked in the late 1600’s. Ogura Souemon who wrote Nihonto Koza, Kodogu Kantei volume 1 notes that this type of work was seen only by Tadatsugu. Tsuba made in Maru gata, un coloured testsu ji tsuba with one half in sukashi depicting such designs as wheels.
It is quite possible that this is the work of Tadatsugu, Mr Haynes states that signed works are rare while Ogura notes he signed in Nijimei. Both note that Tadatsugu was prolific in this style of positive/negitive Ji sukashi tsuba.
While the tsuba itself is by no means a high grade work, seeing a tsuba from the early Edo period with this much lacquer is not very common and as a result, makes for an interesting study piece.
Thank you for reading.