The old saying, "the sword is the soul of the Samurai," is familiar to every one who takes the slightest interest in wondrous Japan. In the old days it was the object on which a gentleman, no matter how poor, would lavish the best art which he could procure for love or money.

Tsuba (Sword Guard) Of Chiselled Iron Made By Kinai (1700)

Tsuba (Sword-Guard) Of Chiselled Iron Made By Kinai (1700)

Celebrated blades were handed down through generations, and, if any of the family became rich, were always applied with highly ornamental hilts and guards and scabbards. The knife was fitted into a separate ease made for it in the scabbard, as the Scottish clansman carried his in the sheath of his dirk, and the handle, usually of bronze, was highly wrought. Scabbards were generally of lacquered wood, though sometimes of some hue, unlacquered hard-wood, and occasionally of silver or other metal. The hilts were covered with white shark-skin bound with silk and decorated with separable ornaments wrought in gold and silver. The guards in the old lighting days were of hammered iron and rather simple in design; but for a century or so before the late revolution, bronzes of various colours, silver, a precious black alloy called shakudo, and, occasionally, solid gold, were used instead. All are beautifully wrought with an amazing variety of designs, among which landscapes, familiar and historical scenes, conventional decorations, heraldic crests, and every division of the animal and vegetable kingdoms find a place.

The beautiful sword-guards we illustrate are from a private cabinet, from which, later, further selections will be given. The tsuba, composed of collections of masks, is of iron, the material upon which, on account of its difficulties, Japanese metal workers of the highest rank have loved to lavish their skill. It was made by the celebrated artist, Kinai, of Echizen. We also show a marvellously wrought guard of solid silver, carved to represent the bird of paradise, the feathers being inlaid with gold. That representing two fishes is also of solid silver. The one depicting a night scene - a man rowing a boat - is of iron, inlaid with silver, a wonderfully line example of its genre.

The adaptability of some of these beautiful designs to the requirements of the Occidental craftsman will be apparent to our readers. To the wood-carver as well as to the jeweller they are

Tsuba (Sword Guard) Of Chiselled Iron Inlaid With Silver Made By Kaneive (1580)

Tsuba (Sword-Guard) Of Chiselled Iron Inlaid With Silver Made By Kaneive (1580) full of suggestions. To the repousse metal-worker we might point out that some of these sword-guards, with hardly any alteration, would serve admirably as lock-plates for drawers or cabinets.

(To be continued)

The Tsuba • Or Sword-Guard

Carp • Made By Take-Sh1ka (1800)

Birds Of Paradise In Silver Inlaid With Gold • Made By Yosh1-Kiro Of Nauiwa (1850) Obverse And Reverse Are Shown

Japanese Art Metal work I The Tsuba Or Sword Guard 642Vestibule In A Town House.

Vestibule In A Town House.