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Tsunenao 常直, circa 1725-1750

Certification: Hakogaki by Kubaro Yojoro

Tsunenao was the chief apprentice of Ichinomiya Nagatsune, founder of the famous Ichinomiya School in Kyoto. The Kinko Meikan lists Tsunenao as being josaku or ryoko, a "good" artisan, while Sadanaka, (Wakayama lists Sadanaka as the same man as Tsunenao), is listed as being a jojosaku, or joko artist, an "excellent" artisan (rated as AA in the "Kinko Meikan" translation).  The translation of the "Kinko Meikan" states that Tsunenao acted as a "surrogate for Nagatsune", while other sources say Tsunenao wasn't above signing his work using a master artisan's signature, including Nagatsune's, his teacher (several works signed Jōi 乘意 are attributed to Tsunenao). These two statements are likely slightly differing translations of the same original Japanese text, but with quite different implications! Whatever the truth, these two sets of fuchi/kashira, signed Tsunenao w/kao, speak for themselves, and to the skill of this artist. Magnification only enhances ones appreciation of these two sets. 

When listed as Sadanaka 貞中, his family name is given as Iwamoto 岩本, and Banryūken 蟠龍軒 as his art name. When listed as Tsunenao there is no family name given, and his art name is given as Kyūbei 久兵衛. The Sadanaka and Tsunenao signatures use different kao.

The Ichinomiya School of Kyoto (western kinko capital) was the counterpart to the Yokoya School of Edo (eastern kinko capital). Ichinomiya Nagatsune and Yokoya Somin were two of the most famous carvers of their time. Both schools were instrumental in shifting popularity from the formal, some say stayed, Gotō family's iebori (house carver) style, to the less formal, freer, machibori (town carver) style. Both schools greatly influenced the many artists working in, and around, their respective areas.

Though these are very small menuki the details are crisp and exceptional. The expressions on their faces would indicate that this is a jovial scene. The gold "binding" on the sandals is finer than the silk thread in the underlying cloth, with no discernable defects. Details are in gold, silver, copper, and shakudo. The left fuchi has a tiger with a peony in its mouth, surrounded by bamboo, done in shibuichi, gold, silver, and shakudo. The fuchi on the right has a shishi on the front and peony on the back, done in copper, gold, silver, and shakudo.

Photos by Jack Edick