Mei (signature): Jōshū jū Saotome Ienari (常州住 早乙女家成)
Period: Early Edo
N.K.B.K.H.K. Tokubetsu Kichō Shiryō certification
Published on book: Saotome Bachi (早乙女鉢)
Provenience: Matsumoto Seiji (松本誠治) collection.
With no restorations.
With a wood-stand and Kiri box.
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Here we have an exceptional forged 62 plate russet-iron (sabiji) Sujibachi Kabuto, by the famous Saotome Ienari (早乙女家成), in the Early Edo period.
The Shikoro has its original black urushi, it has not been restored.
The Maedate in round shape made from wood and gold lacquered from the Late Edo period.
The origins of the Saotome school are to be thought to lie somewhere after the sixth year of Keichō (1601), where they worked throughout the subsequent Edo period. There are some pedigrees of this school extant, but none of them is that reliable to be adopted as it is. However, as a general guideline, the lineage from the “Meikō zukan fukan” should be quoted, which is helpful for the better understanding of the main text.
Lineage of the Saotome school (from the “Meikō zukan fukan”):
1. Ietada – 2. Ienari – 3. Iesada – 4. Iechika – 5. Ietoshi – 6. Moriie – 7. Ienaga – 8. Ietsugu – 9. Ieharu
The “Meikō zukan hukan” states that the school founder, Saotome Ietada, was a retainer of Tagaya Shuri (Tagaya shūri tayū Shigetsune, lord of Shimotsuma castle in Hitachi province). This daimyō was dispossessed of his fiefdom for choosing the wrong side at the battle of Sekigahara (1600). Ietada, having become a rōnin, turned to armour making and became the best helmet maker of the 17th century. It is quite unlikely that, as stated in the Meikō zukan hukan, he was in any way related to the Myōchin (there are too many differences in style and technique) and no document has yet come to light indicating from whom he learned his trade. However, from the information about his lord, it is clear that the Saotome school cannot have started before the early 17th century and that all the Muromachi period datings that we still find in most books today are fictitious. From the book: “Helmets of the Saotome School” by Orikasa, Taelman and Anseeuw.
In addition, contemporary research has shown that most early names (Ietada, Iesada, Iehisa, Iechika, Ienari) were used by several generations as can be inferred from the different styles of signatures and the rare dates found on helmets.
“Saotome School helmets, or short Saotome-bachi as they are also called, were made since the Sengoku period and Saotome School katchūshi are extremely limited but by consolidating these few records, it seems that a certain Ietada (家忠) was the school’s 1st generation and Saotome Ienari was the 3rd generation. When it comes to the genealogy of the Saotome School, we have quite many names of individual craftsman to work with but no solid references or data that shows us how they were exactly related and connected. We know that 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.
As far as the evidence base of known makers of Saotome-bachi is concerned that the author was able to research, we are talking about 21 works of the aforementioned Ietada, 18 works of Iesada (家貞), 12 works of Iechika (家親), 10 works of Iehisa (家久), 8 works of Ienari (家成), 7 works of Ieharu (家春), 5 works of Ienao (家直), 5 works of Ienaga (家長), 3 works of Moriie (守家), 2 works of Ietsugu (家次), 2 works of Ienori (家則), and 1 work of Iemitsu ( 家光), Ietoshi (家利), and Ujiie (氏家). […]”. From the book: “Illustrated Book on Helmets of the Saotome School”.
The Kokon-kaji-mei hayamidashi says: “The third generation Saotome Ienari (早乙女家成), lived in Fuchū (府中) in Hitachi province.” And in the genealogy of the Myōchin side lines of the very same publication we read: “Ienari, third generation Saotome, skilful.” But it is of course nonsense that he came from the Myōchin school. It is also hard to think that he focused his work on the Myōchin style because the workmanship and shape of all known pieces with his mei is truly in the Saotome style. However, the hibiki no ana and shiten no byō are not that high and positioned rather in the middle between the rim of the hineri-kaeshi and the tehen. The overlapping areas of the plates are bulbous and the visible area of the central real plate has about the same width as all the other intervals between the suji ribs. The upper end of the haraidate-dai is notched in an irihassō manner which is uncommon for the Saotome school. The two holes for attaching the tatemono are at a high position and opened horizontally, and in some rare cases also horizontally but at a lower position. The lower end of the haraidate-dai is ken shaped and has a central ridge line. The takanoha notches of the mabisashi can be wide or narrow but both ways are nevertheless typical for the Saotome school. The helmet bowl bulges in a lenient and elegant manner. From the book: “新甲冑師銘鑑 – Shin Katchūshi Meikan”, by Sasama Yoshihiko.