"Tsuba" with landscapes - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

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“Tsuba” with landscapes

Kajiemon. 19 th century

Japan - Japan

8 x 7,5 x 0,6 cm


19th century


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

This tsuba is another marvel of concision: the obverse features a high relief rural landscape next to a lake up amidst the mountains; the reverse shows a fisherman in a boat on a lake, with a moonlit landscape. All of which is fitted elegantly into an 8 x 7.5 cm surface. L.R.H. Smith, former keeper of Oriental Antiques at the British Museum wrote the following about this tsuba:

«The artists responsible for these marvellous metal miniatures transferred their talents to the production of highly decorated vases, large ornamental plaques, inlays of animals and people and many other objects for exportation to the West that Señor Palacio had the good taste not to acquire. He did, however, concentrate on the much rarer sword adornments from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. A typically elegant tsuba (hand guard) is shown in this figure. It is made from an alloy of copper and gold, called Shakudo, treated for a blue-black finish. On it is engraved a moonlit scene of mountains and a lake with details inlaid in small gold, silver and copper points. Only a Japanese could decorate a piece destined for a warrior with a classic scene of peace! This tsuba was made by Kajiemon, who belonged to the fifth generation of masters in the line of Umetada. It was executed in the mid-19th century». (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. 180-181, 507, 509-511, 513, 515-516, 520, 523, 541, 561, n° cat. 44.
  • 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.
  • Sala Ivars, Marcos Andrés. "Estudio y catalogación de las colecciones públicas de sables japoneses en el País Vasco", Ars Bilduma, n. 11. 2021. p. 75.