Mei (signed):  Jinen nanajūyon Hakuō + kaō

(Hakuō, aged 74 時年七⼗四伯応(花押))

Size: 7,80 cm x 8,50 cm

Thickness at rim: 0,35 cm

Weight: 139 gr

Period: Late Edo

N.B.T.H.K. Tokubetsu Hozon Tōsōgu Certification

In kiri box

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Here we have an excellent tsuba in iron by Gotō Ichijō (1791-1876, 後藤一乗), from late Edo period (we know that he used iron in his later years).

Tsuba depicting autumnal vegetation. Lobed shape, iron, high relief worked into the surface, inlay, folded-over rim.

Gotō Ichijō signed with the Ichijō name when working in the traditional Gotō style of soft metals, and he used pseudonym Hakuō when signing on iron tsuba.

It was a strict rule of the main line Gotō family not to allow the use of iron and to use the Gotō name in the mei (signature). Therefore, Ichijō was obliged to use the alternative Hakuō signature when working with iron (though, this prohibition did not extend to accompanying documents and tomobako, where the formal signature was considered appropriate).

The tsuba is signed as (伯應), and it is quoted that way on the older paper. But in later years, it become customary to follow the spelling reform and use the simplified characters in papers. So, on the newer paper, the N.B.T.H.K. writes Hakuō as (伯応), that means with the simplified character for “ō”.

Sometimes Ichijō signed the iron works as Kiju, that in Japanese refers to the age of 77.

Ichijō was born on the third day of the third month of Kansei three (1791) as the second son of Gotō Jūjō (重乗), the 4th gen. of the Shichirō’emon line in Kyōto. His first name in his younger years was “Eijirō” (栄次郎) and, at the age of nine, he was adopted by Kenjō (謙乗), the 5th gen. of the Hachirōbei line. But two years later he started an apprenticeship with Hanzaemon Kijō (亀乗) because of Kenjō’s poor health. When the latter died in the fourth month of the second year of Bunka (1805), Ichijō was nominated the official successor of the Hachirōbei line. At that time, he used the name “Mitsutaka” (光貨).

Six years later, in Bunka eight (1811), he changed his name to “Mitsuyuki” (光行) and worked from that time onwards for Edo’s Shirōbei line dealing with the design of ōban coins as well as mediator between the Edo and the Kyōto branch of the Gotō family. It is unknown when he started to use the name “Mitsuyo” (光代) but, on the basis of extant signed works, we can limit it to the early Bunsei era (1818~1820). On the 19th day of the twelfth month of Bunsei seven (1824) he received the rank of Hokkyō and called himself “Ichijō”. He was only 34 years old at that time.

In the twelfth month of Kaei four (1851), on orders of the bakufu, he went to Edo and was accompanied by Hashimoto Isshi (橋本一至), who had been his student for one year. Funada Ikkin (船田一琴) – another student of Ichijō – had already started his own business in Edo at that time. Extant letters of the Gotō family show that Ichijō’s work was highly appreciated and, in the eleventh month of Ansei two (1855), he had his son Mitsunobu (光信), who had remained in Kyōto, move to Edo. Somewhat later, in the second year of Bunkyū (1862), he returned to Kyōto after spending eleven years in Edo.

He was again joined by Isshin and the reason for his return was that he had received an order from emperor Kōmei (孝明天皇, 1831-1866) for a tachi-koshirae. As a reward for this job he was promoted to the rank of Hōgen in the sixth month of Bunkyū three (1863). He was 73 years old at that time. In the second year of Keiō (1866) the shogunate approved Mitsunobu as his successor and Ichijō died on the 17th day of the tenth month of Meiji nine (1876), at the age of 86.

Regarding Ichijō’s style, it is interesting to note that he often worked in shibuichi, with a noticeable higher silver content which makes the material look whitish. This alloy was not used for sword fittings before the time of Ichijō. He too was subject to the fashion of those days and therefore hardly produced any works in iebori (家彫) style – lit. “house carvings”, the general term for traditional Gotō works in shakudō with nanako ground and gold accentuations – from the Kaei (1848-1854) and Ansei (1854-1860) eras onwards.

In general, we can say that he started working in shakudō, switched to shibuchi during his prime creative period and also used iron in his later years. He first worked in Gotō iebori style making mitokoromono or okitemono (the traditional dragon and karashishi required and strictly regulated by the mainline Gotō masters). Later he changed his subjects to realistic views, flowers and birds.