A Suji Kabuto, Edo period (17th century). Inscribed Gitsu saku

The sixty-two rounded plate iron suji-bachi, with a four-stage gilt tehen kanamono carved with scrolling foliage, the helmet peak covered in stencilled leather with linked florets, the shakudo rims of peak and shikoro carved with scrolling foliage, the eccentrically-shaped side-crests lacquered black over gold, gilt family mon forecrest, gilt three-lame neck-guard with file marks, laced in purple sugake odoshi; with wood storage box and helmet stand. Estimate $18,000 - $22,000

The Nihon Katchu Bugu Kenkyu Hozonkai (Japan Arms and Armor Research Association) has issued a Koshu Tokubetsu Kicho Shiryo certificate, number 1057.

Myochin Gitsu and his nephew Nobuie are considered to be the greatest of all the many armor makers of the Myochin family. There are helmets signed Nobuie which are dated to the Eisho (1504-21) and Tenbun (1532-55) eras, but although there are no dated helmets signed by Gitsu, he was probably working from around ten or twenty years before Nobuie. The Myochin family claimed an ancestry stretching back to the Kamakura period, but in truth Gitsu and Nobuie are among the earliest of the famly whose work can be dated with some certainty. Gitsu is famed for having been the first to make suji-kabuto with sixty-two plates like this piece, followed by Nobuie, later Myochin makers, and armourers of other schools and branches of the Myochin such as the Saotome. Helmets by Gitsu are distinguished from those of Nobuie and later makers by being heavier and more robust, and they were highly prized by the daimyo of the sengoku jidai. This helmet exhibits other typical Muromachi period characteristics such as the angle of the peak being shallower than Kamakura and Nanbokucho-period pieces, and very small fukigaeshi whose function was just to carry family crests. Although helmets with many more plates were made during the Edo period, these were largely for parade and ceremony, and the sixty-two plate helmet was never bettered as a practical piece of military equipment.

This helmet is a fine example among the few surviving pieces by this most important maker, with the prized signature Gitsu saku inside the bowl. The exotic wakidate, despite the lacquer being worn away in places, is of an impressive and imaginative shape, and doubtless applied at a later date, with the coming of the fashion for kawari-kabuto.

Christie's. Japanese And Korean Art. 17 March 2009  New York, Rockefeller Plaza www.christie's.com Image Christie's Ltd 2009