The example offered by Golding Young & Mawer in Grantham on April 20 carries the name of a famous Japanese blade maker.
Carved in relief with the standing figure of Fudo Myoo (one of the Five Bright Kings known as the Immovable One), the blade is signed to the unpolished tang with the name Umetada Myoju (1560-1634), a great tsuba maker, swordsmith and a renowned judge of swords working during the Momoyama and early Edo periods. The so-called ‘father of the new-style sword’, the school he founded in the Nishijin area of Kyoto, c.1600, proved hugely influential.
The date of this ken, consigned by a local vendor who inherited it from her father, was uncertain. The silver koshirae (mounts) designed as a dragon entwining around the scabbard were 19th century but the 13in (33cm) blade was potentially a Myoju school creation from the early part of the long Edo period (1603-1868). Only a handful of swords made by Myoju himself are authenticated – just one of them a ken.
Typically, a blade such as this would be submitted to the NBTHK (Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai or Society for the Preservation of the Japan Art Swords) to pass judgement on its date and authorship. That may well happen in the near future.
Offered as the first lot of a sale of an Asian art conducted by auctioneer Colin Young from his dining table, the dagger attracted a number of highly specialised buyers. The bidding rapidly ran up to £15,000 and then, following some splitting of the final bids, continued to £26,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) – the winning bid coming via the firm’s own live bidding platform.