|Interjacence At Thirty-Two |
by Robert E. Haynes (June, 1997)
You must forgive my Fabian attitude toward your Journal. It has been thirty-two years since I last wrote an article for the TO-KEN SOCIETY OF GREAT BRITAIN. In issue NUMBER ONE, Summer 1965, you were kind enough to print an article of mine titled: "Whither Japanese Sword Fittings?". A question, I am sorry to say, I have not answered during these last three decades, even though the question is still valid. I do not propose an answer now, but a review of the last thirty-two years might be in order.
I actually will go back forty-four years when I first came to London as a student at the Slade School of Fine Arts. I already was a collector of tsuba, having bought my first one in Pasadena California in 1947, for one dollar. During my year at the Slade, I very actively sought out every place in London that might have tsuba for sale. As you might guess there were hundreds of them at that time. Far more than I could visit, or afford to buy from, as a student, even though some sold for a shilling, such as the one I bought from German, the armour dealer, found in a box of fifty, all priced at a shilling each.
At this same time I discovered the auction houses in London. On my first visit to Sotheby's, much to my surprise, I was informed there was going to be an auction with some eleven tsuba, four kozuka, and a pair of fuchi-kashira. It was held on Tuesday, July 20, 1954. The Property of Victor Rienaecker, Esq. I was able to preview at this visit and made the most of my time. On the day of the sale I felt prepared to buy. The sale was held in a small room at the top, of the then, grand staircase, to the right. There was the horseshoe table covered in green felt, and about eight people seated around it. All lots were passed, in a tray, before each buyer. The first lot of fittings was number 142, a tsuba signed by Araki Tomei, iron plate with the usual millet in gold. It sold for 14 pounds. At that time the pound was $2.80, so it fetched $39.20. No 10% buyers fee in those days! Today this same piece would sell at one hundred times the price then. The second lot was signed by Honjo Yoshitane, the great 1850 smith. This lot sold for 26 pounds. The Yoshitane in the Compton sale Part I, (March 1992) lot 21, brought $9,900. The next three lots were unremarkable and brought 4, 10, and 9 pounds each. Lot 147, was signed by Hirata Harutoshi (read Harunaga, in those days), he was a student of Hirata Harunari, ca. 1850, so it was about a hundred years old at that time, and had been in England fifty of those years. It sold for 9 pounds. Next was lot 148, also Hirata work with an illegible signature, which sold for 25 pounds. The next lot of note was 150, from the G.H. Naunton collection, number 970, illustrated on plate XLIV. It sold for 9 pounds. The kozuka brought 9 pounds for the first two, one signed Haruaki Hagen, and 5 pounds for the next two, both unsigned. Lot 154, the fuchi-kashira, signed Yoshiteru, with two kagamibuta, sold for 4 pounds, 10 shillings. There were also four lots of swords. The first, lot 158, was a tanto with signed blade (the signature not given), with a kozuka and kojiri by Funada Ikkin. It sold for 15 pounds. Lot 159, an aikuchi in "ken" style made from a converted spearhead, was signed, Shimada Yoshisuke, (see Hawley, 1981, page 1009), it brought 6 pounds. The mounts were signed by Imai Nagatake, and Ichiju. Lot 161 was a daisho, with signed blades, but the signatures were not given, the pair of tsuba signed by Coto Kanjo, the fuchi-kashira signed Masaoki. The catalogue states, "all parts in good order". They brought the princely price of 62 pounds. I had bought nothing at the sale feeling that the prices were far too high! After the sale a fine gentleman came up to me and asked if I was an American collector, the first he said he had met. I told him I had a few hundred tsuba and I was trying to buy more. We talked for a while, and at the end of our conversation he said: "Well my boy, you are young enough to be at my auction." I did not know what to say. He wrote his name and address in my catalogue, with an invitation to come visit him when I could, and we parted company. When I looked at the name he jotted in my catalogue, I saw it was : W.W. Winkworth, 18 Blomfield Road, W.9. I had meet Billy Winkworth. We were to be friends for many years to come. By the way, about this same time Billy introduced me to a very nice young man, who he said was to be his successor, as cataloguer at Sotheby's, and so he has been, for the last forty years, and I count him from that day to this, as a great friend. You know him as, the world renowned expert, and Senior Director, Neil Davey.
The competition for Sotheby's, in those days, was Glendining & Co., Ltd., 7 Blenheim St., New Bond St., W.1. This auction house still exists as a part of Phillips, at 101 New Bond St. Christie's did not engage in the selling of Japanese art, until years later. Glendinings was the auction house used by Henri L. Joly for all the magnificent sales of sword fittings at the turn of the century. They were the premier auction house for all important Japanese art for over a hundred years. I have attended many a fine sale, and bought many a great piece, at Glendinings. That is where I first met Douglas J.K. Wright, who wrote the Japanese art catalogues, and frequented many an auction in company with John Harding, and many other friends, when we would occupy the whole table at a fittings sale.
After my year in London, I returned home, unable to accept the years scholarship offered by the Slade. I attended U.C.L.A., and along with my studies, was able to continue my collecting. At that time there were only three of us who were active tsuba collectors in all of the Los Angeles area. The other two were Robert Moes, and Fred Martin. Bob Moes and I met John Yumoto at this time. As I got to know John better, he asked me if I wanted to continue my studies of fittings in Japan? I said yes, and in 1960-61, I became the student of Dr. Kazutaro Torigoye, in Okayama. After my years study with Dr. Torigoye, and the completion of the translation of TSUBA GEIJUTSU KO, I returned home and found that now there were many new collectors of swords and fittings. We formed the Southern California Japanese Sword Club, and grew with many new members added each year. By 1962- 63, this club felt that it could put on an international exhibit of swords, fittings, and armor. You must remember, we were very young at that time. We decided that we would borrow swords and fittings from England, as well as all the collectors in the U.S. To accomplish this Fred Martin, and I set out on a trip to London. We stayed with John Harding at his home, and visited as many museums, private collections and auction houses, as we could. See a copy of the To-Ken Society of Great Britain, THE JOURNAL, volume I, No. 2, page 55, for a letter from John Harding, that will tell you more than you will want to know about our trip. At this time I was also to become friends with B.W. Robinson. He asked me to go over the collection of fittings at the V. & A. Museum, for he wished to rearrange the exhibit, and could I help him make a new selection. I was to find myself doing the same thing at the British Museum, at the behest of Commander Newman, who had put himself in charge of the Japanese swords and fittings collection after the war. The visit was a great success and the end result was the exhibit: ARMS AND ARMOR OF ANCIENT JAPAN, AN HISTORICAL SURVEY, at the Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, Los Angeles, February 19 to March 22, 1964. The first, and I am sorry to say, only comprehensive exhibit of the Japanese military arts, outside of Japan, to this day. The 64 swords ranged from the Kofun period (Brundage collection San Francisco) to, an 'Amakunil tanto, Tomonari, Kanehira, Masatsune, Yukihira, Hisakuni, Sukehide, Kagehide, Norikuni, Noritsugu, Ichimonji, Nagamitsu, Senjuin, Kanenaga, Rai Kunimitsu, Masamune with gold attribution by Honami Kojo, and Norishige. All of these by the way, were TACHI, except for the Hisakuni tanto! The last sword in the exhibit, by date, was a tanto made for me by Toshimitsu, signed: "made for Mr. Haynes, Bizen Kuni Osafune ju Toshimitsu", and dated 1961. The exhibitors included, the Boston Museum, Sir Francis Festing, B.W. Robinson, Royal Ontario Museum, Dr. Torigoye, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Avery Brundage, Dr. Walter A. Compton, John Harding, and more than fifty five private collectors, from many parts of the world. Well the four years devoted to this project taught me that if I was to be involved in any future exhibits I was a damned fool. As great as it had been, it took me many months to recover my health again, and this was at the age of 34! I do hope some other fools will try to mount an even more comprehensive exhibit, some day. The closest I ever came was the Solingen Symposium, in 1984, and that was the first time the museum experts from Japan, and the West, had ever been able to get together for a full exchange of ideas and information.
Between 1965 and 1970, my collection had gone through several metamorphoses. The first was the weeding of several hundred tsuba, after my return from Japan, and the addition of many important pieces acquired while in Japan. Next I was to add pieces from Dr. Torigoye's private collection. Then I was lucky enough to find several hundred fine pieces in Los Angeles. So that by 1970-71, after a six month visit in Japan, with John Harding, at his London Gallery, and having visited many collectors, and seen many collections. I also bought many fine tsuba, from the London Gallery and other dealers. Which brought my collection to between 750, and a 1000 fittings, which constituted a "one of everything" collection. It was equal to many of the best private collections in Japan. This was the first time since the formation of the Halberstadt and the Hamburg Museum collection, nearly 75 years before, that a major group of fittings had been assembled in the West.
You may be wondering why I did not also have a collection of blades to equal my fittings. I had made a deal with Fred Martin, and Bob Moes, in the late 1950's, that I would turn over to them the blades I found, if they would do the same with the fittings that they came across. Thus I never began to collect blades, and from then to this day I have devoted myself solely to the collecting of fittings.
Having moved to San Francisco, after my return from Japan in 1971, I went into the auction house business. At first cataloging the oriental art at Butterfield & Butterfield. By the late 1970's I was conducting sales of swords and fittings, such as the sale of November 19, 1979, with an Etchu Norishige blade that brought $35,500; and a Kotetsu, at $22,500. The Jack Paras auction of 383 lots of fittings, had a Yamashiro Nobukuni (Hawley-NOB 309), with Koshu Tokubetsu paper of 1975, sold for $5,500. In November 1980, I wrote my first catalog for Christie's in New York, that sale was notable for the 259 fine lots of fittings, and lot 280, an Unshu Naganobu, $8,000; a Norishige tanto, $14,000; a Kiyondo tanto, $7,500; a Hoki no Kami Masayoshi, $28,000; and lot 324, a Kotetsu, $75,000. In November 1981 I conducted my own auctions, with sale number 1, and concluded with sale number 10 in October 1984. Shortly after this I moved to Seattle, and by 1990 I was at work again at Christie's, with the Compton sale, which took three years. During 1993 I wrote a catalog of 117 selected fittings from The Vancouver Museum collection, and in the period from 1993 to 1996, I helped with sales at Sotheby's in London, and private collection books in Germany, as well an exhibit in London, at the Sydney Moss Gallery.
As you can see this has left me very little time to write many articles. My future is that of a student, even after fifty years of study, but what is more important is the future of the young students and collectors of blades and fittings. They must carry on where we have left off. The blade world has its many champions, but the fittings world, in its usual subalternate position, has but few. Since the study of fittings is only one hundred years old, we have far to go to bring our knowledge equal to that available in the study of the blade. I hope during the next thirty-two years this will be accomplished. I will not be here to see it, but those born when I wrote my first article for you, they might be able to consummate a hundred years of study, from the time of Akiyama to the year 2030.
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