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Provenance:   Robert E. Haynes SOLD
A dignified and excellent kogai attributed to Goto Kojo (光乗) (1529 - 1621), the 4th mainline master of the Shirobei branch of the Goto family of sword furniture makers. Kojo is not as widely known as his famous father Joshin, who died as a samurai in battle, or his legendary great grandfather Yujo, the first Goto master who served the Ashikaga shogun Yoshimasa. The works by Kojo are relatively few when we consider he lived 92 years, though his technique is thought to be more detailed and evolved compared to the first 3 Goto generations. Koj0 worked directly for both Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and was highly regarded by both of these titans of Japanese history. Nobunaga made Kojo the head of the mint, and Hideyoshi permitted him to continue in that post. His son, Tokujo (5th mainline master) dovetailed with his father, taking over the operatorship of the mint under the third great unifier of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The first 4 mainline masters never signed their works, so attribution is made through experience, and sometimes through attestation by later members of the Goto lineage. In fact, Tokujo wrote numerous attestations for his predecessors work, and they were prized possessions, often gifted to deserving samurai by the Tokugawa and other daimyo.

The motif is of a crawling male dragon (這龍図). Kojo and his son Tokujo introduced a wider palate of themes, metals and techniques to the Goto repertoire. His father's work was more singular - recognizable single motifs, large, deeply carved and bold. Kojo's work maintains the height and depth of carving, while moderating the size of objects and increasing the amount of detail and scope of composition. His work is transitional with that of his father, and then with his son, who further expanded the artistry of the metal work. He is also known to have produced works jointly with both father and son. For this reason, attributions directly to Kojo are rarer, as it requires familiarity with nuances. As illustration of this, the kogai is published in the seminal reference book on the subject, Ko-Kogai by Ikeda (see below). Ikeda attributed this kogai to Tokujo. Later however, the NBTHK attributed the kogai to Kojo. Having studied a number of pieces of this same motif by both Joshin and Tokujo, the carving style is closer in style to the former (masculine, bold, with considerable niku), but slightly more graceful and nuanced. The nanako is a little coarser than the style typical of the Muromachi, and the ji-ita exhibits a reasonable amount of wear, commensurate with considerable age. Overall, I believe this kogai reflects the mood and look of the late 16th century. I feel that the current attribution to Kojo is appropriate.

The kogai is made of black shakudo (赤銅), with a very finely punched background of nanako (魚子地). Gold foil has been extensively applied to the entire kogai outside of the decorative plate (ji-ita). The dragon affixed to the plate is carved in solid gold. The fine nanako on the plate is a little worn down outside of the high relief motif. This is a normal characteristic of old kogai. The NBTHK Hozon papers use the terms kinmon ura-fukumi-kin, to describe the gold work. Kinmon refers to the dragon motif that is carved out of gold in katachibori technique (the subject is the outline of the carving), and inset into the shakudo nanako plate. Ura-fukumi-kin indicates that the entire backside (ura) of the kogai has been enclosed / gilded in gold foil. The foil has been decorated with file marks, providing more texture and depth to the ornamentation.

I have been privileged to be able to study in the last several months, kogai by 3 successive masters of the Goto main line. For reference, see kogai by Kojo's father Joshin here, and grandfather Sojo here. Take the time to compare and contrast the pieces, it's very educational. (E. Long)

Translation of the Hozon paper description follows:
這龍図笄 (Hairyu-zu kogai)
無銘 光乗 (Mumei Kojo)
赤銅 魚子地 金紋 裏哺金 (Shakudo nanako-ji kinmon ura-fukumi-kin)
Heisei 16th year (2004) February 24th

Ex-Ikeda Suematsu Collection
Published: Ko-Kogai. Ikeda Suematsu and Miyake Teruyoshi. 1997. pg. 23
Measurements: 21.16cm x 1.23cm x 0.66cm
Azuchi Momoyama Period (安土桃山時代), late 16th century

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A Collaboration of Robert E. Haynes and Elliott D. Long

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