Goto Mitsuyoshi

period:Edo (ca. 1810)
designation:NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu
mei:後藤・光美 - Goto Mitsuyoshi (kao)
omote:3.65cm x 1.4cm x 0.425cm
ura:4.2cm x 1.45cm x 0.4cm
price:$3000

The mainline Shirobei branch of the Goto family stands by itself in the history of soft metal fittings. Its founder is Yujo, who was likely born in Mino in 1440 and assimilated the various traditions of the time. He worked for the Ashikaga shogun Yoshimasa, and developed a typical style and would form the basis for house carving for several centuries – iebori – for the rulers of Japan.

Goto Mitsuyoshi was the 15th main line Goto master, the son of Goto Keijo and his son Goto Hojo or Goto Mitsuaki (civilian name) succeeded him. He also died relatively young at the age of 41.

Mitsuyoshi was given the name of Shinjo when he died, so he is also known as Goto Shinjo but also had the names of Gennojo and Kameichi. The later generations of Goto tended to sign their work with their civilian name. Markus Sesko writes that he was born in 1788 and died in 1834, but there are some discrepencies in the dates and he's said to have died at 52 years old.

Mitsuyoshi is not the greatest of Goto masters, but his work was used by daimyo when he made it personally and after the time of his son the mainline Goto family came to an end. Some experts consider the 17th Goto master to not be legitimate, but however you look at it, the sword ban came during this era and it was the end of manufacturing for many sword and sword furniture artisans of all sorts. As well, his attributions are used today as a basis for sorting out earlier generations by the NBTHK.

Goto Mitsuyoshi Menuki

These are very charming fish, in shibuichi, shakudo, and gold foil by the 15th generation main line master Goto Mitsuyoshi. I am no expert in fish but it would appear to be olive flounder (Japanese flatfish... some time after this kind of fish is born, one eye migrates through the head to come out on the other side of the face leaving one side with two eyes and the other eyeless. After this metamorphosis this they swim through the waterhorizontally... so we can see this on these menuki). The smaller fish and the gold fish I'm not sure, one must ask someone who eats a lot more sushi than I do.

The use of metals in this set has a beautiful effect, proceeding from a subtle transition of shibuichi on the left to shakudo in the middle and then the contrasting use of gold on the right on each menuki. The NBTHK has rated these Tokubetsu Hozon which is a bit harder than it is to get for swords.

They are signed on the bellies with a split signature. They have been authenticated by the NBTHK as Hozon Tosogu and reside in a custom box. These would make a nice addition to an animal theme collection, or as representative work for someone collecting the main line of Goto artists as was popular to do in the late 1800s in Japan. They would also make beautiful menuki for an aikuchi tanto mount as the signature would not be obscured and they can be enjoyed how they were meant to be by the artist.