Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard


UMMA Object Specific Fields






Query builder

Tsuba (sword guard) with iris design

Accession Number
1978/2.8

Title
Tsuba (sword guard) with iris design

Artist(s)
Japanese

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
circa 1780

Medium & Support
iron and gold

Dimensions
3 1/16 in. x 2 7/8 in. x 3/16 in. ( 7.8 cm x 7.3 cm x 0.4 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert T. Weston

Label copy
Tsuba are intended to protect the user’s hand, first by shielding it against a blow from the opponent’s blade, and second by preventing it from slipping onto the razor-sharp edge of the weapon being wielded. Until the early seventeenth century, simply designed iron tsuba were dominant, as seen in the example here bearing a mushroom motif. When the Tokugawa regime required samurai warlords to travel regularly to the capital, Edo, and mandated that their wives and children reside there, considerations of urban fashion became more influential than battlefield practicalities in samurai attire and accessories. The tsuba became more an object of display than a functional item—a trend that further intensified when affluent merchants were permitted to carry swords in public and also began to demand attractive tsuba.
As is well represented by this collection, there was great artistic creativity at play in tsuba-making during the Edo period. The newly developed shakudô (a copper–gold alloy of a lustrous purple–black color) was used to create relief designs. Openwork chiseling was a versatile method for creating dramatic representations of family crests or light, airy, and elegant plant motifs.
(Label for UMMA Japanese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
Tsuba (sword guard) is inserted between a sword handle and blade to protect hands from sharp blades. The center hole is where the sword is placed. The smaller hole is to insert kozuka, an ornamental stick. Irises are popular motifs in Japanese art, for their association with Tale of Ise, classical literature from the Heian period (794-1192).

Physical Description
It is a round, openwork iron tsuba, in the design of three interconnected irises. The two holes are plugged with gold.

Primary Object Classification
Arms and Armor

Primary Object Type
sword guard

Additional Object Classification(s)
Metalwork

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
flowers (plant components)
iron (metal)
leaf (plant material)
swords

2 Related Resources

Japan Pax Tokugawa 1600-1868
(Part of: Empires and Colonialism)
Samurai
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved