|period||Edo (ca. 1760)|
|designation||NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Tosogu|
|mei||Omori Eishu (kao) – 大森英秀 (花押)|
|measurements||Fuchi 4.0 cm x 2.35 cm, Kashira 3.47 cm x 1.86 cm|
The Omori school is famous for its carving and particular for deeply carved wave patterns. Its roots are with a swordsman: Omori Shirobei from Sagami (Soshu). He began making fittings around 1700 but it is his son Omori Shigemitsu who is recognized as founder of the school so he is likely to be the first who received high level training as he studied under Masayoshi Ichirobei and Yasuchika of the Nara school. He died in 1726, and his work is all in Nara style. His son Terumasa (Omori Eisho) studied under Yokoya Somin and Yanagawa Naomasa but his work is not as highly regarded.
The nephew, and later adopted son of Terumasa was Omori Eishu. He would rise to eminent levels and be considered the greatest of the Omori masters. Eishu was born in 1730 with the civilian name Kisoji (喜惣次), and his art name is often casually transliterated in English as Omori Teruhide. However, Japanese habit is to use the Chinese style pronunciation of his name (英秀) so Eishu is probably better to use than Teruhide.
He is considered a member of the Yokoya school, who's styles he faithfully interpreted, and as well is the second mainline master of the Omori school and its finest artisan. Twelve of his works have passed Juyo, and two of those went on to pass Tokubetsu Juyo.
His enhancement to the wave pattern style began by Terumasa was to make extremely deep carvings and undercuts, which had to take a considerably longer time due to the amount of material which had to be cut away to produce the dramatic three dimensional sculpture. These wave pattern items usually feature some kind of sea creatures and can be quite stunning.
One of his famous techniques is makie-zogan which involves hammering gold into the existing shibuichi ground and afterwards polished to a high gloss.
He continued the style of his father [... enhancing it with ...] a so-called "nashiji-zōgan" (梨子象嵌) or "makie-zōgan" (蒔絵象嵌) technique where fragments of gold foil are hammered on the prepared surface. The latter is polished and so a magnificent effect is created which reminds us of the makie lacquer technique and some style elements from paintings. Markus Sesko, Kinko Kodogu
Omori Eishu died in 1798 at the age of 69, and passed the master position to Eiman (英満, also read as Terumitsu, and sometimes called Hidemitsu). He was the 5th son of Eishu and worked in the late 1700s. The NBTHK Token Bijutsu English edition states that he was just as talented as his father. For some reason when Terumitsu died he never appointed a successor, so the Omori mainline officially ends with him. Omori Mitsutoki however was in turn his primary student and probably would have been the candidate for becoming the 4th master of the school. Mitsutoki's skill certainly speaks to this opinion.
Eishu as well had a samurai as a student, Chizuoka Hisanori (遅塚久則), who was a retainer of the Mito Daimyo. He gained a high level of skill studying under Eishu and 10 of his works are Juyo to date. His student Hidetomo (秀知) was also of formidable skill and has produced at the Juyo level and is mentioned in the Edo-Kinko Meikan as the top student of Eishu.
The legacy of the Omori school threw a large shadow of influence and the waves pattern work that Eishu made famous was copied by many artists who came after him. Many of these copies had no signature or had signatures removed, and both types were targets for adding fake Eishu signatures. These fakes are quite common and in spite of the bad signatures they are often passed along as "Omori school" works or even demand a fair amount of money just because the style is so popular. Though Eishu made the waves style famous, his work in the other typical Omori styles seems to be at least or even more common than waves style.
Tokubetsu Hozon Omori Eishu Fuchigashira
This beautiful fuchigashira is one of the styles in the repertoire of Omori Eishu. This style of shishi and peony originates with Somin though the theme of botan and shishi goes back into the Muromachi period and possibly earlier. The Ishiguro school also made items with this theme as would be expected from an offshoot of Yokoya.
He mainly produced fuchi-kashira and tsuba among various kinds of metal pieces for sword mountings, followed next by menuki and kozuka in the size of production. He had a rich variety of designs to use on his works. In addition to birds and animals, he depicted ancient historical events of Japan and China. His greatest favorite in addition to the shishi-botan design frequently used by the Yokoya school was his original design depicting surging waves, which has been called Omori-Nami. NBTHK English Token Bijutsu
One of the styles we see in the Omori school aside from the famous Omori-nami waves patterns is the traditional pairing of botan (peony) with shi-shi (also referred to simply as lions, fu-dogs, or lion-dogs). These symbols are quite ancient, with the shi-shi having originated in India, passing through China and arriving in Japan in the Nara period (roughly a 1300 years ago). They are Buddhist designs invoking Monju the Bodhisattva of wisdom, which are symbols of protection and power. The botan is considered the Queen of Flowers and thus associates well with the shi-shi, or King of Animals. We also see the shi-shi in front of temples and shrines, where they serve to scare off demons (with an open mouth) and keep in good spirits (with a closed mouth).
In particular the silver petals of the peony flower with their deep carving shows the breadth of the remarkable talent of Eishu. He really could make anything he put his mind to. The signature is well preserved and is a nice reference, given that there are so many gimei works of this artist around.
A very similar set to this was on a Tokubetsu Juyo Awataguchi sword that had mounts made by Count Ito Miyoji who was one of the drafters of the Meiji period constitution in Japan and maybe the top sword collector of his time. It was paired with a similar themed tsuba by Ishiguro Masatsune, and together they indicate what kind of sword it would be appropriate for (calm and noble), and what the tastes of an upper-ranked nobleman in the late/end of Edo period would prefer.
This set can be purchased along with the Shishi menuki by Omori Eiman, (aka Terumitsu) who is the son of Eishu and I will give a $500 discount if bought together. Together they make a nice father and son set.
They come in a custom fit box.