|Every Forty Years Or What I Did On My Summer Vacation |
by Robert E. Haynes
In 1962 Fred Martin and I went to Europe with the hope that we could borrow some important swords and fittings for the exhibit that was to be held in Los Angeles in 1964. This exhibit was by far the most important collection of swords, fittings, and armor, that has ever been held outside of Japan, to this day. It was titled: ARMS AND ARMOR OF ANCIENT JAPAN, and was shown at the Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, from February 19th through March 22, 1964, One can still find the 68 page catalog illustrating the highlights of this exhibit. The story of our trip, and what we saw, and were able to borrow, follows:
Fred and I first visited London We met, for the first time, John Harding, our host, and a friend for the next forty years, who has contributed mightily to the world of Japanese swords and fittings, Engineer-Commander Alex R. Newman, nominally in charge of the Japanese swords and fittings at the British Museum, the notorious Clement Milward, who was also my buying agent in London for a number of years, C.H. Lundgren of Stockholm, Sweden, who we met in London, and who invited us to see his famous collection of swords and fittings at his home in Stockholm, and dealers Douglas Wright, a very well known authority, and a good friend of mine for many years, G. Moss, Bon Dale, a good friend to many of us, and very well remembered by all of us, Michael Webb, who collected fine kozuka in those days, and is now a very famous netsuke carver. We were also able to see the Bradford and Backhoff collections, which were later auctioned in London, as well as several others. I took time to go to Oxford to see the Church collection, and Fred went to see the collection of swords held by Sir Francis Festing. In 1953, I had already met B.W. Robinson, and W.W. Winkworth, and knew the dealers who sold swords and fittings in those days, the only collectors at that time were family collections which had been formed, for the most part, at the turn of the last century. Well, Fred and I did go to Stockholm to see the Lundgren collection, and we stopped in Copenhagen to see the Halberstadt Collection, then under the control of Dr. Berger, who was kind enough to open the cases so I could handle the fittings. Then we took the train to Hamburg, to see the collection at the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, formed by Shinkichi Hara, at the turn of the last century. We met Frau Doctor Rose Hempel, curator of oriental art, and I had time to make detailed notes of the pieces on display and also see a great deal of the reserve collection. We next went to the Netherlands to see J. van Daalen Jr., and spent several days at his home to view his very fine collection of fittings, books, and many other objects. We returned to London for an important auction at the Glendining Auction house, which at that time was the premier house for Japanese art sales. We later were hosted by the fledgling To-ken Society of Great Britain, none of whose members seemed to have attended the auction the day before, except John Harding! Looking back, forty years later, this all seems to be ancient history, but I must say it was much more exciting and stimulating than what I shall now relate, of an almost repeat trip I have just made a few weeks ago. Naturally I am not thirty, nor have I just finished a years' study with Dr. Torigoye, but even so, something very vital has changed in the world of collecting and the study of the fittings for the Japanese sword. I wish I knew what that something was! It might be that I am now 72, but I am sure that is not the whole story, for the fine pieces that I saw this time are the same ones I saw forty years ago. Perhaps what I shall relate next, might explain what that change might be.
In October 2002 I flew to Copenhagen to change planes for Germany. I met my good friend Gunther Heckmann and we worked together for several days before we were to drive to northern Germany. We were to stop in Frankfurt am Main, and visit the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt/Main. The curator of oriental art is Dr. Stephan Graf von der Schulenburg, who kindly showed me the collection of fittings held by the museum. There are a few good examples of both iron plate and kinko tsuba of classic examples, which had been well identified by Eckhard Kremers, several years ago. The two outstanding tsuba are a typical Kano Natsuo (H06974), with his well known peony bloom design, and a rather common iron sukashi plate tsuba, with the longest inscription by Kamiyoshi Fukanobu (H00490) that I have ever seen. Dr. S. Graf von der Schulenburg kindly said that he would take a photo of this rare signature for me and when I receive it I will publish it for all to see.
Gunther and I next drove to Hamburg. It felt very strange to see the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe after not having been there for forty years. Today the curator of oriental art is Dr. Nora von Achenbach, who has been with the museum for just under three years, and whose expertise is in various areas of Chinese art. She had a very busy schedule the day we met, and she said we could see the collection the next day when there was more time. We took a quick view of the galleries of Japanese art and there were two long glass display cabinets, on either side of a doorway, which held about 40 to 50 tsuba, the lighting was directly from above, so all you could see were black silhouettes, with not one signature being visible! On our return the next day, one of the students of Dr. von Auchenbach took us to the storage room used for various parts of the Japanese collection. Against the right wall were about 18 to 20 feet of steel shallow drawer cabinets, about 6 feet high. I began viewing the collection, without the help of the few doubtful drawer labels. I soon found there was no real order to the collection. I had brought the notebook that contained my drawings and notes of 1962. As I went through the drawers I tried to find many of the pieces that I had marked as very superior examples, but I was not able to find many of them. The collection is very strong in Edo period kinko work, both tsuba, and many very fine small fittings. Naturally I very much wanted to see the very famous kozuka by the first Yokoya Somin (H08910), which is published in the Anhang to Die Meister Der Japanischen Schwertzieraten, by Shinkichi Hara in 1932. It is well illustrated on page 18, both face and back, numbers 52a and 52b. It is signed: Tonan Somin, and Akiyama Kyusaku thought it should be named a Japanese National Treasure. What I had not remembered, was it held a silver kozuka blade carved and inscribed by Kono Haruaki Hogen (H00760), which he made 75 to a 100 years after the kozuka had been made, because of his admiration of this work. Thank the gods, it was still there. It is every bit as fine as I remembered, and I agree with Akiyama that it should hold a very special place in the world of sword fittings. What I have not mentioned has been my desire to write a catalog of the Hamburg Museum collection that goes back to my first visit to the museum in 1962. I did nothing about this desire, over the last forty years, because Frau Dr. Hempel always told me that she was going to write the catalog of this very fine collection, but which never came to pass. Well, I am sorry to say that after waiting these forty years I no longer have that desire today. The reason is, the collection no longer seems to be the same, and many great pieces I remembered, I was unable to find on this trip. The museum collection is still worth a very fine catalog, but it would not be a catalog of the most important collection outside of Japan, as it once might have been. All of this was both a great disappointment, and somewhat of a relief, as I will not have to spend several years of my life working on this catalog. As we parted from the very gracious Dr. von Achenbach I left her with the bon mot, see you in forty years! I do suggest that all collectors of Japanese sword fittings see this collection, for they will learn a great deal from viewing these pieces. I was able to obtain a catalog at the Hamburg Museum, by Axel von Saldern, titled: DAS MUSEUM FUR KUNST UND GEWERBE HAMBURG, 1869-1988, bilderhefte 23. For many years I have wondered what Shinkichi Hara looked like, well on page 39 of this catalog is a group photo taken at the Museum in April 1902, and upper left is a very young mustachioed Hara, looking around a pillar. This was at the time that Hara wrote the first edition of DIE MEISTER DER JAPANISCHEN SCHWERTZIERATEN, Hamburg 1902, with an introduction by Justus Brinckmann (1869-1918), who is in the same photo, lower left. On page 63, of this same catalog, is another group photo, with Hara, sans mustache, seated front row center. This picture was taken February 2, 1930, 28 years after the first photo, and just a year before the publication of the second edition of Die Meister.... All this may not mean much to the young collector of today, but I have spent the last 55 years with the name of Hara, and Henri L. Joly, in my ear, almost every day. I have not yet been able to find a photo of Joly, and should any reader be able to point me to one, I would be most grateful. Even though I do not have the same feelings about the Hamburg fittings collection as I did in 1962, I do feel that it is a great collection and any student of fittings should try to view it if they can.
Gunther and I next drove to Holland to visit an old friend I had not seen since my first visit at his home in 1962. J. van Daalen has been a student and collector in many areas of Japanese art, and started about the same time that I did. His primary area was materials and associations of objects. Something that very few others in the field of Japanese studies have paid much attention to. He is now 79 years old and not in the best of health, but my visit was most interesting as his mind for the past, and his memory has not forsaken him. He no longer collects, as I do not, but we shared many memories and common goals we have had of mutual interest over these fifty years. I hope that someday his theories and ideas in the field of Japanese art can be published. Some of you may remember the great early contribution that Van Daalen made with his publication of the Pabst auction catalog, at Van Stockum's Antiquariat, The Hague, in 1956, even after almost fifty years, still a very useful reference work. There are still several collectors, such as Van Daalen in Europe, and most Western collectors, and none of those in Japan, seem to have any knowledge of them.
At this stage of my trip, Gunther and I parted company. I took the train for Paris, and Gunther returned to Ellwangen. I always stay at the home of my very good friend, and fellow student, Bob Burawoy. I had not seen Bob for about six years, and he has finished his doctoral thesis, concerning schools of Japanese armor artists, and their history, during that time, I hope an English edition will be published some day. We reviewed the last six years and enjoyed recalling various events during our many years of association, and friendship. There was time, in our two days together, to see some of the dealers and collectors in Paris. We also went to the newly rebuilt Musee Guimet to see the display of Japanese sword fittings. I am sorry to say that there are at least 75 to 100 tsuba, in a very large glass front case, with the tsuba mounted on a Plexiglas sheet, with the wall behind them lighted through ground-glass, so all you can see are black silhouettes of the pieces on display. Sound familiar, remember the Hamburg tsuba? I hope this ridiculous lighting system is not a new fad in European museums! There are about 400 tsuba kept at this museum, but we did not have time to see them, and, as Bob had said, it would be a waste of time. The fittings I saw at Bob's home were far superior to anything I saw in Paris on this trip. I also saw the additions to his fabulous library, which is the most complete in private hands. There are great collections of Japanese fittings and other art in Paris, and I hope some day they will be published, for all of us.
For the first time I took the train from Paris to London, under the English channel. It is now a three hour trip, but costs about the same as a plane from Paris to London. That day in London I had time to see a few of the shops, and visit the new offices of Bonhams auction house, who now own the old Glendinings auction business, they have also just bought the Butterfield auction house in San Francisco, where in the early seventies I began Butterfield's oriental art sales. My good friend, Colin Sheaf is now the head of International Asian Art for Bonhams, we had not seen each other since we worked together on my first auction for Christie's in New York, in 1980. During our visit I got the feeling that Bonhams could become the next important venue for fine Japanese art sales. I hope that comes to pass, as we need good auction houses that can sell fine quality material that could never be sold on the internet. The next day I was to have lunch with Alan Bale of Christie's Auction house. Alan and I go back many years, and as usual, before our lunch, he showed me the material in the upcoming sale at Christie's. Not much of interest for me this time, but as always these days, I did find one unrecorded signature I did not have in my book, it will be added, with a good many others, in an corrigenda and addenda I will put out next year. After our lunch Alan and I went to visit Victor Harris at the British Museum. Victor and I had not seen each other since the first European symposium, on The Arts of the Samurai, held at the German Sword Museum, Solingen, in 1984. It was a great pleasure to visit with Victor, after eighteen years, and he was very kind to show me the collection of fittings at the museum, which I had not seen in forty years, since Fred Martin and I saw the collection under the auspices of Alex Newman, in 1962. There has now been added a very large group of small fittings, from an old private collection, that I had not seen before. It was one of those rare afternoons, when three friends can go over an old collection and each give their frank opinions of the pieces. We all concluded, that for the most part, the collection at the V. & A. museum, which was ministered by B.W. Robinson when I first viewed the collection in 1952, and saw it again in 1962, and in 1980, is superior to that at the British Museum, which does have some important highlights. It was a great pleasure for me to see the Kaneie, that was published in TSUBA KANSHOKI, by Dr. Torigoye, in 1964, and is illustrated on the top of page 79, that I had not seen since 1962. The iron plate is as fine as I remembered, and I still feel that it is a very early example of the work of the Kaneie (H02463 to H02465) group of artists, and seems to date from ca. 1500. There were a number of other pieces of importance, that were well worth viewing again, after so many years. This day was one of the highlights of my trip to London. The next day I was to have lunch with my old friend Neil Davey, at Sotheby's auction, now at Olympia - Hammersmith in London. I had not seen these new galleries and Neil gave me a look-around. I also looked at the pieces in the Sotheby sale of Nov. 12, 2002, and saw some old friends in the fittings that I had cataloged for the Compton auction at Christie's in New York, in 1992. Such as lots 79, 80, 81, 82, 125, 154, 162, 172, 188, and 205, we shall see how they fare this time around. Neil was introduced to me by W.W. Winkworth, about 1962, when he was just beginning his days of study under Billy, and we have been friends ever since. Though, as you know, Neil is an expert in the field of netsuke, he has for many years cataloged the sword fittings for Sotheby's, so we have always had much that we could share over the years. Neil is semi-retired now, and is emeritus, after his forty years service with Sotheby's. A time period that almost exactly reflects the title of this article.
Looking back on this trip and the more than forty years it covers, I feel that the answer to my question of what has so changed during these years can be found in the world around us. Most who entered the field of study of Japanese kodogu forty to fifty years ago, were more interested in the pure study and the knowledge that could be shared between fellow students, even though our knowledge was not as deep as one can have today. Where are the great students, and who will be the masters of tomorrow? For me, these questions do not much matter at this stage of my life, but those who have entered this field in the last few years had better find those answers or this area of study will be gone entirely; both in the West and in the East.
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