Samurai Arms & Armor Dating Back to 11th Century Goes to Bonhams New York Auction Block

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • October 12, 2009

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An unusual, 18th Century, iron kawari kabuto "eccentrically shaped helmet" by Fujiwara Yoichi is estimated at $45/55,000.
Bonhams & Butterfields

On October 22nd, international auctioneers Bonhams will offer over 100 lots of Samurai Arms & Armor. For collectors fascinated with the storied tradition of the Samurai, this upcoming sale at Bonhams New York represents an extraordinary opportunity.

Timed to coincide with the opening of the "Art of the Samurai" exhibition at New York's MET, the sale will include swords, armor, helmets, and other related objects- some dating as far back as the early 11th Century.

Among the most coveted lots is a highly important 16th Century, Muromachi period, nagamaki–or a halberd type sword–by Kanabo Masatsugu. It is presented with mounts contemporary with the sword, as well as an additional naginata–another type of halberd sword–and a wakizashi "short sword". The nagamaki is exceptionally long, measuring 58 1/8 inches from the tip to the start of the cutting edge. It also features a very broad longitudinal ridge and a very long tip. Estimated at $200/300,000, it was purportedly in the collection of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the first Tokugawa Shogun.

A Heian period (circa 1040) Yamashiro Gojo tachi "slung sword" is expected to spark fierce bidding. With most significant technical advances in the development of the Japanese sword traditionally ascribed to the early swordsmiths in Kyoto, it is notable that the sword has been praised as being "graceful of form and with obvious Kyoto character". Appointed 20th Juyo Token–or 'Important Sword'–by The Society for the Preservation of the Japan Art Sword, the lot carries an estimate of $150,000-200,000.

An unusual, 18th Century, iron kawari kabuto "eccentrically shaped helmet" (pictured) by Fujiwara Yoichi, is of interest. Hammered into the form of a billowing grain sack, it is carved with a large coiling dragon on the front surface and lightning bolts on the reverse and decorated with gold and silver overlays. Featured in the landmark, 1985 Japan Society exhibition titled, "Spectacular Helmets of Japan from the 16th to the 19th Century", the lot is estimated at $45/55,000.

Additionally, seventeen prime examples of Japanese suits of armor will be offered.

Notable amongst this group is a black lacquer, hinged cuirass laced in dark blue with a 16th Century helmet by Myochin Yoshimichi. Estimated at $45/55,000, the suit is from the collection of the feudal lord Kato Yasumune and also comes with an 'Important Armor' certificate issued by The Society for the Preservation of Japanese Armor.

Also garnering much attention is a blue-laced armor from the late Edo period (picture at top). Presented with a 16th Century helmet, a war vest of yellow "Dutch" fabric, a war fan, a red silk banner, and a campaign curtain, it is expected to fetch $35/45,000.

Some additional military accessories of great interest are a Momoyama period gold, lacquered leather saddle with dragonfly design (est. $7/10,000); a russet iron chanfron "horse mask" (pictured, right) by 20th Century armorsmith, Fukutake Ichiro designed as a dragon's face by (est. $6/8,000); a hanging scroll of a painting of Mt. Fuji and poem attributed Toyotomi Hideyoshi [1536-1598] (est. $20/30,000); and a variety of sword fittings.

Viewings will begin at the Madison Avenue galleries on October 18th until the morning of the sale which takes place on October 22nd at 1PM. The illustrated auction catalog for the sale will be online at in the weeks preceding the preview and auction. For more information about the department, please visit

Press Contact:, Staci Smith, 917-345-5157

About Bonhams

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son and Neale UK. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America and in August 2003, Goodmans, a leading Australian fine art and antiques auctioneer with salerooms in Sydney, joined the Bonhams Group of Companies. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street, and Knightsbridge, and a further seven throughout the UK. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston in the USA; and Switzerland, France, Monaco, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 57 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to (01-08) For other press releases, go to

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