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Samurai Swagger

16 December 2022 | starting at 11:00 GMT

A dragon, tiger, and prunus tree; a view of the sea, birds, and the moon; a flock of cranes by a stream; and a Chinese painter watching a dragon he's just painted coming to life - you can secure these four pocket-sized metal miniatures all in a single lot (16) in our live Samurai Swagger sale on 16 December.

During the Edo period (1615-1868), Japan's fearsome warriors enjoyed power and privilege but had little fighting to do. Instead, they used their wealth to decorate their weapons, with a special focus on tsuba: hand-protecting square, oval, round, or lobed metal plates, usually no more than three inches across, that were fitted onto swords between the hilt and the razor-sharp blade (their centres are always cut with a sword-shaped opening).

As the samurai passed into history, tsuba, made from copper alloys or iron, pierced, polished, stippled, chiselled, overlaid, and inlaid, parted company with their blades and were seized upon by European enthusiasts, enthralled not just by their intricate beauty but also by their dizzying wealth of decoration. The groups of tsuba and other sword fittings offered in Samurai Swagger include something for every taste, from literal and miniature to graphic and abstract.

A single tsuba can feature all twelve animals of the East Asian zodiac (lot 14); take the form of a skull (lot 1), a Buddhist temple bell (lot 51), or a group of abalone shells (lot 18); tell the story of a fisherman who stole an angel's cloak (lot 51) or a cunning monk who tricked his way through a samurai-manned barrier (lot 20); celebrate the natural world with depictions of plants, birds, fish, and animals (both real and mythic); or bring good fortune to its owner with a depiction of auspicious emblems for New Year's Day.

Don't miss this opportunity to join the latest generation of tsuba fans and build your own gallery of samurai, lore, legend, and sheer design brilliance.

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