GOTO SOJO KOGAI


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Provenance:   Robert E. Haynes NFS


Lovely old kogai attributed to Goto Sojo (宗乗) (1461 - 1538), the 2nd mainline master of the Shirobei branch of the Goto family of sword furniture makers. Sojo is functionally the first accessible master of the Goto school, as works by his father Yujo are extremely rare. This early Goto lineage, Yujo, Sojo and Joshin represent the 'golden age' of the school, and their works are always highly sought after, becoming cornerstones of any serious tosogu collection. Sojo's work is more delicate than than that of Joshin, and he often worked in the highest grade shakudo, with a deep, purple black patina. In profile, the carving is often gentle, with soft sweeping lines and relatively low relief. The standoff of the carved motif is often barely higher than the top surface of the kogai. Sojo used gold uttori application liberally in his work, and they often present with lovely wide window's throught the gold foil, to the black shakudo underneath. The color contrast can be quite striking. The early Goto never signed their works, so attribution is made through experience, and sometimes through attestation by later members of the Goto lineage.

The motif is of loquats or Biwa (枇杷), with the fruits covered in gold uttori. Loquats are a symbol of wealth or prosperity and good luck. Their fruit is often naturally a golden yellow, so the association is understandable. Sojo employed silver ten-zogan (点象嵌) dot inlay in 5 places to represent early morning dew drops or tsuyu (露) on the leaves. All the dots at the leaf edges, giving the impression that the dew has beaded, and is about to roll-off the leaf. This subtle motif element is understated and charming, invoking images of a warm sunny morning, following a cool spring night.

The kogai is made of black shakudo (赤銅), with a very finely punched background of nanako (魚子地), with selective application of gold foil, in a technique called uttori (うっとり), where the gold is mechanically overlain, and affixed in very fine furrows around the edges of the motif. The artist would sometimes purposely remove areas of the gold foil to show windows to the base metal below. The fine nanako on the plate is worn down outside of the high relief motif, and along the edges. This is a normal characteristic of such old kogai. Gold inlay remains on the warabite (蕨手), the decorative curvilinear carvings toward the back of the kogai. The NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers use an alternate term for uttori, in this case, kanabukuro-kise iroe (金袋着色絵), which literally means 'application of a gold bag [coloration]'. The motif itself is executed in high relief or takabori (高彫).
Translation of the Hozon paper description follows:
枇杷図笄 (Biwa no zu kogai)
無銘 宗乗 (Mumei Sojo)
赤銅 魚子地 高彫 金袋着色絵 (Shakudo nanako-ji takabori kanabukuro-kise iroe)
Heisei 20th year (2008) November 27th

Ex-Tosogu Bijutsukan Museum and Ikeda Suematsu Collection
Published: Ko-Kogai. Ikeda Suematsu and Miyake Teruyoshi. 1997. pg. 432
Measurements: 21.2cm x 1.26cm x 0.45cm
Late Muromachi Period (室町後期時代), early 16th century





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