Octagonal "tsuba" with dragon and paulownia - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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Octagonal “tsuba” with dragon and paulownia

Anonymous, japanese. 17th century

8,7 x 8,3 x 0,8 cm

17th century


Donación de doña María de Arechavaleta, de la colección de don José Palacio

This iron tsuba has an unusual form: the corners are folded back, turning the quadrilateral into an octagonal shape. On the reverse is a dragon flying through the clouds in relief, with a gold and silver foxglove tree (pawlonia tomentosa) flower on the upper part. This flower (kiri in Japanese) was taken as a sign of prosperity and good omens for many centuries, so much so that flower and petals were chosen, together with the chrysanthemum, for the imperial coat of arms. In the Muromachi period (1333-1573), the arms with the pawlonia were granted by the Emperor to the Ashikaga family, the clan of the shogun, who in turn awarded it as a sign of honour to the nobles who distinguished themselves by their courage in battle. Later, this mon was used by the Oda and Toyotomi clans, particularly by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In view of the importance of this noble coat of arms, this tsuba may well have belonged to some noble Japanese family. (Fernando García Gutiérrez, 2008)

Selected bibliography

  • Arte japonés y japonismo [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa-Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2014. pp. 151, 508-511, 513, 515, 520, 523, n° cat. 15.
  • Caeiro Izquierdo, Luis. La Cultura Samurai : armas japonesas en las colecciones españolas [tesis inédita]. Madrid, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 1991.
  • García Gutiérrez, Fernando. "Tsuba : Japoniako zaldunen ezaugarri bat. Tsuba bilduma Bilboko Arte Eder Museoan = Un signo distintivo de los caballeros de Japón. Colección de tsuba en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = The Mark of the Kinghts of Japan. The Tsuba Collection at the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum", B'07 : Buletina = Boletín = Bulletin, n° 3. 2008. pp. 101-159.