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Japanese Kodzuka handle with crescent moon and sea waves design

Abstract

The Edo or Tokugawa era of Japan witnessed an unprecedented flourish of many art forms. The rise of the samurai culture and the political fermentation of this unsettling time brought out with them a modern return of the dolmen style of the art of the Japanese sword. The styles of decoration and the variety of materials used in swordsmiths form a quintessential element of the Japanese literature. Japan's wealth of artistic creation demonstrates its interest in small things and the detailed treatments of them, giving evidence of remarkable skill and taste. For centuries, Japanese swordsmiths devoted their excellence in the art of decoration the samurai's sword-furniture. As part of the warrior's most unseparated possession, the Kodzuka functions as a handle or grip or hilt of the small ko-gatana knives. This iron Japanese Kodzuka is one of the finest representatives of the Edo Japanese decorative sword accessories. The etching style and the abstract delicacy are doubtlessly from the last great master swordsmith Kano Natsuo (1828-1898) or his pupils. The influence of Zen Buddhism of the time eloquently manifests in Natuo's unique choice of motifs and unsurpassed style (from the Otsuki School). His etching style has a distinctive sense of elegance, austere, reserved, and never overflowing. There is an intentional consistency of manipulating a commanding void that dominates the whole composition. The decorative elements employed are conceptual and minimal motifs derived from nature. This Kodzuka has the common plain oblong shape. Its outer face is sophisticatedly designed with a bold relief-etching (takabori or high carving) or raised decoration of a gold crescent moon in the background, partly eclipsed by stylized tidal waves. Some scattered gold dots on top of the waves hint the splashed foam. The Japanese have such great reverence of the force of nature such as big waves (tsunami). On the back of the piece, there are three Japanese characters meaning 'the nature of wild waves' (read from the bottum up). The waves occupy only the bottom right space of the Kodzuka, leaving a powerful void. The abstract and simplicity of this remarkable composition magnificently counteracts and redeems the sense of austerity of the handle. Its balanced yet asymmetrical layout signifies the philosophy of the samurai class: the dynamic between 'configuration/principle' and the 'material energy/vital force'. Objects like this are widely collected as works of art.

Note

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Acknowledgement to be given to the ASIANetwork-Luce Asian Art in the Undergraduate Curriculum Project and to the college from whose collection the work comes. The individual college retains copyright to the work.

Administrative Notes

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Acknowledgement to be given to the ASIANetwork-Luce Asian Art in the Undergraduate Curriculum Project and to the college from whose collection the work comes. The individual college retains copyright to the work.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Gettysburg College
PID
coccc:24074