Mei (signed): Saotome Ietada (早乙女家忠)
Period: Mid Edo
N.K.B.K.H.K. Tokubetsu Kichō Shiryō Certification
With a wood-stand and Kiri box
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This helmet is an iron 62-late ribbed helmet with russet finish by Saotome Ietada, Saotome school.
The origin of Saotome School (早乙女派) are dated around the sixth year of Keichō (慶長1601).
Saotome katchūshi were active in Odawara (小田原) in Sōshū province and in Shimotsuma (下妻) and Fuchū (府中), both located in Hitachi province, that means it is safe to assume that the school had its origins in the Kantō region.
When it comes to the genealogy of the Saotome School, we have quite many names of individual craftsmen to work with but no solid references or data that show us how they were exactly related and connected.
As a general guideline, as reported in the “Meikō zukan fukan” (名甲図鑑附巻), the lineage of Saotome School is as follows:
1. Ietada家忠 – 2. Ienari家成 – 3. Iesada家貞 – 4. Iechika 家親- 5. Ietoshi 家利- 6. Moriie守家 – 7. Ienaga 家長- 8. Ietsugu家次 – 9. Ieharu家春
Saotome School helmets, also called Saotome-bachi (早乙女鉢) lit. “Saotome helmet bowls”
, were made since the Sengoku period in great quantity. They are of an excellent shape, of an excellent forging quality, and their thickly chiseled signatures are very legible.
Most of the helmets have a highly elegant bulbousness along both the front and the rear area, a shape that is consequently referred to as “Saotome style”. Nevertheless, the interpretations of Saotome-bachi are actually quite multifarious.
When we focus on the most common Saotome-bachi, which are 62-plate suji-kabuto, we can name the following characteristic features: (1) There are rivets visible on the inside of the central front and central rear plates and close to the tehen no ana. One along the front plate that comes with a za base, and two on the rear plate. These rivets are referred to as Saotome-byō and every Saotome-bachi should show Saotome-byō. (2) Almost all Saotome-bachi are assembled from the back, the plates have a certain bulbousness between the suji ribs, and the central front plate is double-layered. (3) There are right rivets that connect the plates, including the rivet that connects the bowl to the koshimaki no ita. The shiten no byō are mostly installed on the eight plate from the front and rear (not counting the central front plate) and at a relative high position.
Saotome Ietada (早乙女家忠) was the founder of Saotome School, active at the beginning of Edo period (江戸時代 1603-1868).
As far as the evidence base of known makers of Saotome-bachi is concerned, there are twenty-one works of Ietada. Following studies demonstrated that there were several craftsmen active who shared the name of Ietada: as reported in the volume six of the Honchō Takebayashi Genshi, there are thought to be five generations of Ietada. In cases like these, the differences in signature style are an important clue to understand the generation.
Helmets signed “Jōshū-jū Saotome Ietada” are thought to be 1st generation Ietada’s works.
According to the legend, Ietada (Echigo no Kami Ietada越後守家忠), whose name at that time was Chikara (主税), was a middle class vassal of Tagaya Shigetsune (多賀谷重経), who was then Lord of Shimotsuma Castle (下妻城) in Jōshū (常州, Hitachi province). In the sixth year of Keichō (慶長1601) he was confiscated his properties by Tokugawa Ieyasu and got eventually banished. Consequently, Ietada became a rōnin and worked as a local helmet maker in Shimotsuma. But there also is the possibility that one or two generations later some descendants of the Saotome family just claimed their ancestry in the abovementioned way.