Description The body of this tsuba is sculpted to resemble a piece of weathered wood. The openings for the utility knife and the hair pick look like natural holes in the wood. At the upper left, a snake emerges from the utility knife hole. A frog sits and the lower right, surrounded by gourds. On the reverse is a slug. The snake's tail is also visible coming through a hole as if from the front. This is likely a reference to the story of Jiraiya, which was a popular narrative of many installments published in the mid 19th century. Jiraiya had been educated in frog magic. Snake magic can overcome frog magic, but snail magic can overcome snake magic. Jiraiya married a woman who had snail magic (represented by the slug on the reverse). There is a related idiom that is the equivalent of the English phrase "like a deer caught in headlights." The Japanese phrase is "like a frog being watched by a snake," which implies that the frog can not get away.
Provenance Henry Walters, Baltimore [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters
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