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Ezo Kōgai

Ezo kōgai (蝦夷笄) made of gold gilded yamagane, with motif of 5 peonies (botan 牡丹), on a background of nanako (魚子). The motif has been carved in high relief, rather than applied to the plate.  This technique is called takaniku-bori (高肉彫).  This kogai was once fully gilded, but time-related wear has expectedly resulted in loss. In places, the remaining gold is visibly quite thick, almost a foil. The scoop or mimikaki (耳掻) is pronounced, as was common in some early kōgai. No doubt, this was a kogai meant to be seen, and reflected the high status and wealth of its owner.  Ezo kōgai are very rare, and usually far less ornamental than this example.

The inline floral motif was a favored subject in early Japanese metalwork, and foremost was the peony.  The peony holds a honored spot in the Japanese flower symbology.  It is called The King of Flowers, and is a symbol of good fortune (carried over from Chinese concepts), though in Japan, it also came to represent bravery, honor and righteous spirit.  No wonder that the peony became a favorite motif of the samurai.  The inline 5 peony motif first appears on early armor O-sode kanamono of the Heian / Kamakura periods (12th - 13th c). The size of those armor adornments is similar in size to the decorative plate of a robust kogai, so the motif easily transferred.  The motif remained popular in either 3- or 5-inline through the Muromachi period.

The robust size and boldness of this kōgai, motif and generous amounts of gold application make it difficult to attribute to the mid - late Muromachi. Koshirae style tended to shorten in the 15th c., and kōgai such as this, and the contemporaneous, narrow and long ko-Mino kōgai simply did not fit easily into the new style.  This piece would likely date to the early decades of the 15th c, when the long koshirae styles of the preceding Nanbokucho were still in favor.  Tsuba with the distinctive, high peaked hitsu-ana correspond to the period of manufacture of this piece.

Measurements: 23.0cm x 1.25cm x 0.48cm

Early Muromachi Period (室町前期時代), 15th century



Ezo Kogai Comp_1300px 

Ezo Kogai Boxed_1300px 




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