It had been twelve years since I was last in Europe. This trip was prompted through the many phone conversations and fax messages between myself and John Harding in London. John was again deep into sword fittings. He asked if I might come over and we could attack, for the umpteenth time, some of the many questions at issue that we had not resolved over the last thirty five years. We seem to do this every few years whether we will resolve our many query or not, and I think we will continue until we, or the questions, are put to rest. It was a good time to go. There were auctions in London, and in Kbln, along with collections to see in Paris, Hagen, London, and at the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart. I was unable to return, after thirty years, to see the collection at the Hamburg Museum, as I had planned, there just was not time, even though my trip was almost thirty days.
I was to stay with Harding in London and I had just put my bags down when we were off to see Patrick Syz and the Caldwell collection that was on view at his Eaton Place digs. I enjoyed seeing pieces from my collection and others that I had not seen for thirty years. The only piece I would have liked to have back was number 42, not to "own", but for serious study. Described as the work of Akasaka Tadamasa. It had been illustrated first in Arms and Armor of Ancient Japan, the "Barnsdall Park" exhibit of 1964 in Los Angeles, number 134. In my youth I described it in the catalog as the work of Akasaka Kariganeya, ca. 1600, at that time it had a box by Dr. Torigoye saying as much, this box now seems to be lost. I now feel that both opinions are wrong. On examination the true age would seem to be about 1500 or even earlier, thus more than a hundred years before either of the artists mentioned above. Its nearest relative would seem to be the tsuba on page 93 of Eckhard Kremers', SUKASHI TSUBA, Suttgart 1994, but this will turn into a disquisition that I hope to take up at another time.
This did not end the 25 plus hours I had been up so far. We ran a few errands and then went over to Christie's to "see" the items in the coming sale of November 14-15. The preview was to start at 5:00 and though only two hours away was being set-up. I joined in with the placing of items in cases and doing my usual thing during the mad hours before a "CHRISTIE PREVIEW". I had certainly done it enough times in New York, why not in London as well. It also gave me some chance to see the fittings before the mad throng was allowed in. Somehow, as usual, it got finished before 5 o'clock. It was one of those "champagne" evenings, which brought my lagging "spirits" almost back to normal. There was much conversation with many friends I had not seen in years, and much debate of the items in the sale. After a good night's sleep we returned to Chistie's the next day and I was able to go over the lots in the sale with a clear head and catalog in hand.
At about 11:00 I was to be at Sotheby's to meet Neil Davey for lunch. This was most enjoyable for we have been friends for almost forty years. Much discussion of old times and the great new things happening for Neil in the Japanese Department. We returned to Neil's office to meet Harding to look over the fittings for the sale of November 17th. In the two hours we had to do this there was only time to get a first impression of the pieces. I did see a number of tsuba of interest and would need more time to study them at a later date. We returned to Christie's and I spent more time going over these lots for my self and friends who asked me to view for them.
The next day Harding and I returned to Patrick Syz for a short viewing and then I was the meet a friend at Sotheby's to view the pieces with him. This we did for several hours and then went off to lunch together to discuss the sale. My friend had to fly home that evening and I needed a good night's sleep, which I got.
The next day was to bring a new guest to the Harding household, my old friend Daisuke Saito whom I had not seen since the last Compton sale in New York. Dai was to be a great addition to the days to come. Harding was busy the next morning so Dai and I were to go into London together. We jumped into the car that belonged to John's wife and crept into London with its horrible traffic. I was not driving, Dai was! In fact he had been doing this for almost twenty years and knew London better than I. We finally parked near Sotheby's and went off to preview at Christie's. I very much enjoyed my days with Dai, for on the slow drives into London we had time to talk of many things. The state of scholarship in Japan, the world market in fittings, the collectors and collections we both knew, and the sale at hand. We had time to preview the Sotheby sale together and had long and most interesting discussions on the fittings in the sale. The second evening there was to be an opening at the shop of Barry Davies. In fact many of the major dealers hold special exhibits and receptions when there are major sales at both auction houses. Barry was having an exhibit of netsuke and many friends I had not seen in years were there, such as Ted Wrangham, Oliver Impey, Bernard Le Dauphin, Tsumugi Shoji, Michael Dean, Rolf Schmoll, Robert Fleischel, and many others. This was only the first of several such evenings.
Another evening of note was held at Harding's home. I had wanted to give a dinner for B.W. Robinson and John thought it would be better for Robby, who is 82 now, if it was not held in a crowded restaurant. We had also invited Sebastian Izzard, the young Ken-ichi Inami, Patrick Syz, and Daisuke, naturally. The sushi was pilled high and the beer flowed during the many great hours of conversation of the past and the future. Robby is still lecturing both at home and abroad and will write the Islamic catalogs for the vast, Dr. Nasser David Khalili collection. The Meiji metal work part of the collection was on exhibit at the British Museum, but more of that later. I hope my mind is as sharp as B.W.'s when I am his age. He could recall events we had enjoyed together when we first met forty years ago. An evening such as this was the highlight of the trip. I hope the young collectors of today can meet Robby when they are in London for he is the last of the great Edwardeans.
I had been in London almost a week and this Sunday morning was to be a fine breakfast at home, cooked by John in true British style, with eggs, gammon, sausages, fried tomatoes, toast, marmalade, and tea. Then off to the preview at Christie's, the last day and the first day of public preview at Sotheby's. One might wonder why we were spending so much time at the previews. There were more than a thousand fittings, several hundred swords, books, and many hundreds of other items between the two houses, so every minute was needed to examine all these thousands of lots, and this we did until closing time at 5:00 that evening, for the next morning was the sale at Christie's at 10:30 sharp. We arrived at Christie's in time Monday morning to register and get those favorite seats to bid unobserved but able to see all others bid, with luck. The first 71 lots were netsuke and related items. Lot 72 began 33 lots of fuchi-kashira which ranged from 300 pounds ($530.) to 3000 pounds ($5300.) per set. Lot 106 was the first of 45 tsuba lots which ranged from 400 pounds ($713.) to 5600 pounds ($10,000.). Lot 152 started 105 lots of kozuka, fuchi-kashira, menuki and other small fittings. These ranged from 400 pounds to 2600 pounds ($4650.). Then we went to lunch. At least Dai, Luca, Allan Bale and I lunched on pasta and the results of the morning session. At 2:30 the afternoon lots were sold. Lot 258 began 30 lots of menuki which ranged from 350 pounds ($625.) to 750 pounds ($1,336.). Then another group of fuchi-kashira to lot 300. This was a copper blade with the signatures of Natsuo, Funada Ikken I, Tsuchiya Yasuchika VI and Yamazaki Tenmin, along with a sutra and lotus blooms, buds and leaves, all carved on both sides of the blade. It brought 30,000 pounds ($53,460.)! Then 9 mixed lots before the swords. Lot 310 was the first mounted blade which brought
18,000 pounds ($32,076.) the lowest priced blade, that sold, brought 3000 pounds ($5346,), not bad for 10 lots of swords. The first catalog ended with 15 lots of iron articulated figures of only fair quality. Which ranged from 800 pounds ($1425.)
to 12,000 pounds ($21,384.). If they had been great the best
would have been at least 50,000 pounds.
This did not end the day, another catalog began at 3:30 on that Monday afternoon. The second catalog began with lot 335 which to lot 404 were all mixed fittings. These ranged from 300 pounds ($530.) to 7000 pounds ($12,474) for a tsuba signed by Ichijo that everyone agreed was a workshop example. Lot 409 was a suite of armor of the Meiji period with a helmet bowl of the late Kamakura period, ca. 1300. In very nice condition but one was only buying the bowl which someone paid 42,000 pounds for, almost 75,000 dollars! Lot 415 began the swords in this catalog which extended to lot 519, one hundred and four lots! These
ranged from 750 pounds ($1336.) to 16,000 pounds ($28,500.), so you can see there were no masterpieces in these lots. Thus ended the first of the London sales. It was a great success for the auction house, and the prices were high and the market was strong with most of the lots going to the Japanese and European buyers. The next day Christie's sale continued with the woodblock prints and other Japanese works of art. The sword world was again at the Sotheby preview trying to finish the many lots to be sold on Thursday. Tuesday night was another reception. This time at the Gallery of Patrick Syz. It was a very fine evening with exceptional sushi platters of great beauty passed around with much champagne of equal quality. Again I was to see, and have long discussions with, many old and new friends. A great time was had by all. By the way, all the Caldwell fittings were on display and there was heated debate about various pieces, with nothing being resolved. Not even as the champagne flowed.
Wednesday was the last day of preview at Sotheby's and it should be noted that at these sales there were many in attendance from all parts of the world. Sales such as these are very well attended and both the "lookers" and the buyers fill a good sized room at sale time. The sword and fitting market, for fine pieces, now is larger outside of the U.S.; except for a few high bidders but the rest of the items go to Japan and collections in Europe. We are no longer the major market for swords and fittings. Many come to buy from us but not many major sales are made to us. can remember when a "major" fittings sale at Glendining's ca. 1960 would have in attendance, myself, as the American, and the British buyers John Harding, Clement Milward, Billy Winkworth, Ted Wrangham, German, the armor dealer, and Helge Lundgren of Sweden, and this small group would buy the whole sale between them. Not any more.
Between sales on Wednesday Harding, Dai, and I went to the British Museum to see the Meiji art of the Khalili collection. I should mention that there is an article by Victor Harris of the B.M. in Orientations magazine, vol. 25, # 9, Sept. 1994 outlining the details of this part of the collection, with good color photos of many of the "best" pieces on show. The exhibit takes up two very large halls in the museum and is very well displayed. The objects themselves are another matter. Meiji art was the last great burst of technical skill by those who had been trained in metal work when swords were still being worn. These objects have little to do with swords but they are by such artists as Kano Natsuo, Unno Shomin, Shoami Katsuyoshi and other masters of the 19th century. We discussed the works which are genuine for the most part and the merits of the craftsmanship of the three artists mentioned and the others on show. Shoami Katsuyoshi showed the most versatility and command of any metal or media. Unno Shomin was the best all- around artist and poor Natsuo came in a distant third even though he was the teacher of these other artists. One piece by Natsuo is of note. A small table screen of shibuichi and shakudo with the design of Kiyomizu temple. When Dai saw it he said that he remembered when his father had sold it many years ago for a fraction of the price that the present owner had paid. All collectors of sword fittings should see such exhibits so they will be able to see the technical skill and vulgar results that came from the "westernization" of their art, which gave way to the "pleasing" of the foreigner. Naturally they were not patronized in Japan so they had to kowtow to the West. This saved their craft but not their art. We had time for viewing some of the other areas of oriental art in the B.M. There are a few sword fittings on display. I noticed that the Kaneie that is illustrated in Tsuba Kanshoki (1964) by Dr. Torigoye, on page 79, was not on display. I was told that it is no longer considered "real" by the museum. Ah, the vagaries of new administrations! I might add that a number of the other "best" examples were not on display as well.
Thursday morning began the Sotheby sale in two galleries at the same time! I do not think this had ever been tried before by a major auction house. At 10:30, in the Colonnade Galleries, lots 1 to 164 were sold. These were the woodblock prints, screens, and paintings. Also at 10:30 in the Main Galleries lot 165 to lot 363 (198 lots) were sold. The only lot of note in the early numbers was lot 211, a shibuichi koro and cover signed by Unno Shomin (1834-96), decorated with humorous scenes inlaid in gold, silver, copper Dai and I discussed its merits several major examples of the
and shakudo. It is 61 in. high. having just seen the day before work of Shomin in the Khalili exhibit at the British Museum. We were curious how much all this "new fame" for his work would effect the price. It brought 21,850 pds. ($35,400.), so you can see a little publicity never hurts the work of any artist. Lots 253 and 254 were Shibayama tsuba, both as god-awful as any I had ever seen, but this did not stop them from making 2,645 pds. each ($4,285.). The "armour" started with lot 292 and brought the prices expected. Lot 307 began the blades and there was only one which brought a price well over the estimate. Lot 323 with Meiji tachi mounts and a blade attributed to the Ko-Hoki school was estimated at
6,000 to 8,000 pds. It brought 12,650 pds. ($20,500.). The only other blade of note was lot 345, a ken signed by Tsugusada with fine 19th century classic ken mounts, estimated at 4-5000, pds. it brought 8,280 pds. ($13,415.). The five guns were in
the 800 to 2,300 pds. range ($1,300 to 3,750.). With this over we went to lunch. We assembled at 2:30 in the Colonnade Galleries to buy the next 385 lots. The first twenty lots were
swords. They ranged from 350 to 2000 pds. ($630. to $3,750.). The next 176 lots were tsuba which ranged from one to ten tsuba per lot, at least 600 pieces or more. The first lot to bring a good price was lot 389, a tanto size iron brass inlay work signed by Heianjo Nagayoshi, a small typical example, estimated at 500-500 pds. (sic), 500-600 pds. was intended. It brought 3,500 pds. ($6,500.)! This was almost double what most of the mounted swords had brought! The next notable price was lot 469, a wakizashi size iron cup shape tsuba with waves and chidori design signed by Myochin Muneyoshi, who died in 1900 at age 73, and Issai Mototane, who died in 1901 at age 72, they worked together on other tsuba and neither was a great artist, still the lot brought 2,200 pds. ($4100.) right in the middle of the estimate! The next lot of note is 512 an unsigned Tanaka style iron plate. Dai and I had discussed this piece during the preview. It is very fine late work, actually superior to Tanaka school work and probably by an unknown Mito area artist.
It was estimated at 800-1200 pds. and brought 3220 pds. ($5,200.) a good price for a "nice" tsuba. Naturally the "Shingen" tsuba, lot 524, brought a price far beyond its worth, 3,800 pds. ($7,100.)! All agreed that it would not be long before "new" Shingen tsuba might appear on the market, at these ridiculous prices. The next lot of note is a fuchi-kashira signed
Natsuo, lot 595. Estimated at 1,200-1,500 pds. it brought 3,000 pds. ($5,500.), and myself and others did not think the signature genuine! The next lot was even more ludicrous, it was a "dai-sho" fuchi-kashira, even though the two "pair" were the same size! It was signed Yanagawa Naomasa, with the usual shishi and peony design and was estimated at 600-800 pds.,
which it was worth. It brought 2875 pds. ($4,650.), and no one seemed to feel the signatures were real! There were several kozuka in the 1150 to 1725 pds. range, lots 609, and 614 to 620 etc0 which were of no great merit but cost $1,865. to $2,800., why I can not tell. The remainder of the lots went as expected. One thing should be noted. There were no "masterpieces" in either of these auctions. Today one no longer expects to see sword fittings of international merit, but the hope of finding such a piece, even one, still lingers; yet you can see the prices paid for second class work should make the owners smile.
The evening after the sale Harding prepared dinner for Dai, Sachiko, and myself while we discussed the sales. Dai made an interesting comment. He said that even ten years ago he could find seventy to a hundred thousand pounds worth of good, to fine, sword fittings to buy at the London sales each year. Now he said that he could only find about thirty to fifty thousand pounds worth of pieces that were of merit. I mentioned that I was glad I was not collecting "masterpieces" any more and could find a few fittings worth serious examination that might shed new light on the study of sword fittings. John said, Haynes you were lucky to start collecting when you could have your "one of everything". Yes I said, but as you well know it has taken me almost fifty years to get to this stage. Well Haynes we never did have time to get to any of those thirty year old questions, so I guess you will have to come over next year and we can start on year thirty one!
The next day I was to fly to KOln and see Trudel Klefisch at her auction gallery. She had planned a Saturday evening during the preview for her sale that would bring together twelve to fifteen of the European collectors for an open discussion about sword fittings and collecting in general. Most of these collectors I had not met before and I found them enthusiastic and earnest. There are many collectors in Europe that most Americans do not know, and I was very pleased to find knowledgeable students of fittings whom I hope to know better through future trips. It is a shame that there can not be some better form of communication between the various collectors of the world. The next day, after this fine evening I took the train to Paris to stay with my old friend Bob Burawoy. The next two days I was to view a very fine collection. There are about two thousand tsuba in this collection but I had time to see only two to three hundred.
The first day I was shown the pre-Edo period, early soft metal tsuba. To see at least one hundred such pieces at one time was a great learning experience for me. Not all were great pieces, but each contributed to my knowledge of the whole field of Kamakura and Muromachi period soft metal tsuba. I think I now have a much better idea of the relationship, and progressive development of the schools and styles during this over two hundred year period. I hope to write a paper on this field of study in the near future.
To digress here from the order of the trip, I want to mention that while in Paris Bob took me to see the exhibit of the contents of the wreck of the Spanish ship the San Diego that sunk in 1600 off the coast of the Philippine Islands. This ship contained a number of fully mounted Japanese swords. We do not know who was the owner of these swords, but the fittings are in good enough condition to show us the styles and types of tsuba that were being worn, mostly by the lower rank samurai, before 1600. We have never had a date without contest that we could apply to fittings made before the Edo period. Naturally a great deal more study needs to be done on this subject but it is a beginning for the foundation of the soft metal fittings study I mentioned above.
The second day of viewing the collection in Paris I was shown about seventy five or more tsuba from Shonai Province. The interesting thing about this group of pieces was the range of production time to be seen. The earliest pieces were Momoyama or earlier and the latest were ca. 1800. This two hundred year span showed both the consistency and gradual development of the styles and designs used by the various schools working in Shonai. The several books dealing with the tsuba of Shonai Province illustrate mostly the "great" masters and types that were produced in this area, but they do not show how the artists or their schools developed. This you can only learn by seeing a large group of pieces such as I did. We did have time to see a few other areas of the collection, but not enough time to see other large groups or types. I hope to see more of this collection on future trips. By the way I was pleased to see many tsuba that had once been in my collection in this group. Some I had not seen for over thirty years. Much of the rest of my time in Paris was devoted to great discussions with Bob on many areas of fittings, books, and our joint study projects. Even with the hectic pace of Paris there was time to see the Paris Biannual Antique Show, certainly the most prestigious in the world, and as mentioned above, the exhibit of the San Diego, and to visit the various auction dealers who specialize in oriental art.
On Friday I took the train back to Köln in time to finish my preview of both the Klefisch and Lempertz auction sales which were both to take place on Saturday. The Lempertz auction had only 32 sword fittings, six swords, one gun and a jingasa. There were a few notable pieces in the sale. The best tsuba brought 3,960 marks ($2,640.). It was a shakudo plate with a landscape with tiny gold deer and plants somewhat in the Mino style, but this piece was ca. 1500 or earlier and predated any Mino examples in this style. It was definitely the prototype for the classic Mino style that was to follow in a hundred years. A friend bought it so at least I will be able to study it in the future. The Klefisch auction had 135 tsuba and 54 small fittings plus 10 swords. The top sword brought 14,300 marks ($9,300.). The tsuba ranged from Muromachi iron, brass inlay and sukashi, to the full range of Edo period iron and soft metal examples. The highest priced tsuba was lot 522, a shakudo plate openwork warrior design dai-sho, signed with the full Soten signature of the late 18th century. They brought 4485 marks ($2,912.), a good price for tsuba that are best for mounting. Lot 470, was a brass plate tsuba signed with a long inscription, and dated 1854, with the full Ichijo signature. The color would have had to be restored, and yet it brought 4025 marks ($2,613.). Many of the other tsuba were interesting study pieces and I managed to pick up a few that will give me hours of research and deliberation. The sword fittings and the other objects in both sales were very successful with the total lots in Lempertz being 1264 and Klefisch being 904. So you can see there is a great deal of oriental art being sold in both England, with 1576 lots, and Germany with 2168, for a grand total of 3744 lots in one week of sales, and this takes place at least twice a year. So in Europe a total of about 10,000 lots of Japanese art are sold each year when one adds in the several oriental auctions held in Paris each year. In fact I have seen at least 400 tsuba to be sold in these auctions in the next few months.
Not all my time was taken up by these various sales. After the sales in Germany I had the privilege of visiting several private collections. The first I viewed was more than 350 pieces that have been formed over the last twenty years or more. It is a collection in the Japanese style. All the important schools, styles and artists are represented. Many of the boxes are by Sasano, Sato, Torigoye, and other masters. Sasano wrote opinions for this collector on the reverse side of the cloth covered pad of the box, in some cases, but did not sign the box itself. This I had never seen before. By the way, I did the same thing with some of the tsuba in the Compton collection, when the piece had originally belonged to me. The pieces from my collection were not noted in the Compton catalog. This is only one of several very fine collections in Europe that are not known in the U.S. I hope some day they can be published, for they deserve to be. This collector also has a fine library and very good knowledge of all aspects of sword fittings. It was a great pleasure to see these pieces and have such stimulating conversation while viewing them.
The next day I was to go to Stuttgart to see the collection of tsuba at the Linden-Museum. On the way we stopped to visit with Eckhard Kremers at his home in Diez. He had invited me to see his tsuba and to have lunch on our way to Stuttgart. His tsuba collection is very fine. Naturally, as you would expect, it is mostly iron sukashi examples. Many are from the books published by Sasano, his teacher, and others he has found in Europe and England that are equal to those from the Sasano collection. He also had several tsuba that did not "fit in" with the conventional ideas of sukashi tsuba. One was an iron plate of a horse in the round, without a rim, and with a rope at the feet. This design we do see in 18-19th century Bushu Ito school work. We both agreed that this example was of the Muromachi period and had nothing to do with the Ito school. What artist might have made it we could not determine, for not only did it have iron bones but the quality of the plate was far superior to that of the later Edo period tsuba. A noteworthy study piece. Another very strange tsuba looked like a "Tochibata" work, with the conventional rope shape rim, but this tsuba was also from the Muromachi period and far finer that any Tochibata tsuba seen so far. These and other examples show the true origin of many of the Edo period styles and designs, but made in the Muromachi period. Eckhard and I had several hours of very enjoyable conversation about these tsuba and I know now that I have a kindred spirit with Eckhard since we think and study such examples in the same way. I hope some day we can publish our ideas on the many areas of sword fittings that will become a common bond for our future study. The time with Eckhard was all too short and we had to leave, but with the idea that we would work more closely together in the future.
That evening we arrived in Stuttgart and had time for a brief visit at the Linden-Museum. Though a city museum it was founded by the family of the Duke of Linden. It is a general art museum with fine African, native American and oriental-mid-eastern art of good quality. The director Prof. Dr. Peter Thiele was very kind to give me a preview of the tsuba collections and to make the arrangements for my study of the collection the next day. I was to arrive at nine the next morning to begin work on the Trumpf tsuba first. This group of several hundred pieces was formed after the war, for the most part, and many were bought from the auctions in England and Europe. I found a number of signatures, kao and art names that needed to be added to my list of names and several fine examples that one could term first class work. The most interesting tsuba was a small iron plate example that was very thin and rough hammered with sukashi of three small circles, perhaps the hoshi (three stars) mon, in the upper right quarter of the plate. The only family listed, in the late Heian period, who might have used this crest was the Sasaki family. The kozuka ana seemed to be original. This tsuba is of the same age as that illustrated in the new book, Sukashi Tsuba, by Masayuki Sasano (Tokyo 1993), plate number 1. The date in the book is given as late Heian period (ca. 1100). This also seems to be the correct date of the museum example. This is the first tsuba of this type and date that I have seen outside of Japan. It is very rare and
shows that there are more examples extant than had been supposed. The museum is to photograph it for me and as soon as I receive a copy I will publish it in the NEWSLETTER. The other collection of tsuba at the museum was given at the turn of the century. There are several hundred pieces but very few of quality. Between the two collections there are at least a hundred tsuba that should be published. Dr. Thiele thinks this might be possible in the future and he asked if I would assist. Naturally I said I would be very pleased to do all I could. That evening we drove back to Koln. I was to fly to London the next morning. In the day and a half I had left in London I paid a visit to my old friend Douglas Wright to wish him a happy birthday, for he, John Harding and I were all born in 1930, and we have known each other for more than half of our 64 years. I had a fine evening with Graham Gemmell, and lunch the next day with Harding, after visiting Christie's to see Sachiko and give her a copy of my list of names. I was a very tired person by this time and needed a good night's sleep before flying home the next morning.
I found that thirty days in England and Europe was too long at my age and I shall make such a trip only two to three weeks in the future. I did have a marvelous time and saw and learned a great deal of which I have recorded only the highlights here. My heartiest thanks to all who made this trip such a great success.