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Nobukuni Katana
There are several generations of Nobukuni of the same name beginning with the shodai in late
Kamakura jidai and extending well into the Muromachi period.  The shodai Nobukuni is thought to have descended from the Rai school in Kamakura, being either the son of Ryo Hisanobu, or perhaps Kunihisa.  Nobukuni traveled to Sagami to become a student of Soshu Sadamune who was the son of the iconic master, Masamune.  So we see the junctures of two great lines of swordsmiths, the Rai school and the Soshu school, coming together in Nobukuni's works.  The influence of Sadamune is seen in the refined jigane, depth of nie structures, and exquisitely rendered carvings such as bonji and ken.

Six generations by the name Nobukuni continued, entering the Oei era at the dawn of the Muromachi period.  The workmanship between subsequent generations departing from the calmer, more refined style of jigane and hamon, to more exuberant and active patterns.
This katana is an important example of early Nobukuni school work.  It is accompanied by an NBTHK Hozon paper that notes it is Oei Nobukuni.  However, it also carries a beautifully scripted sayagaki by Tanobe Michihiro, the former Director of Research for the NBTHK in which he writes:

                                                Joshu [Yamashiro no Kuni] Nobukuni

Osuriage mumei.  This same smith in the Mid-Nanbokucho, the name continued for
generations after the shodai, and this work is consistent with the work of a generation from the end of the Nanbokucho peroiid to Oei, the beginning of the Muromachi period.  The work range is a ko-gunome mixed in a mainly ko-nie tone, and this is an excellent piece of work which clearly show the special characteristics of these same smith of both of these periods.

The length is two shaku, three sun, three bu.

Date:  Kinoto-Hitsuji Rangetsu (July 2015, Year of the Goat)
Inspected by:  Kanzanbe Michi (Tanobe Michihiro) (Kao)
Translation by:  Harry Afu Watson, August 1, 2015

       


Nagasa:  70.7 cm
Motohaba:  2.75 cm
Kasane:  5.75 mm
Kissakihaba:  1.7 cm
Kissakikasane:  4 mm
Sori:  1.65
The polish is excellent and displays the merits of the forging and yakiba beautifully.  Please note that the spots seen in the boshi are not corrosion, but scuff marks from rubbing the interior of the shirasaya during transit, and can mitigated with a touch up of the kissaki.

It is a superb example of Nobukuni school work and would be an excellent addition to any collection.  The NBTHK Hozon papers and sayagaki by Mr. Tanobe Michihiro are testimony to its origins and quality
Offered on Consignment: $12,500.00
   

So in these two attributions we have a bracket of judgments placed into what could be either nidai, or sandai Nobukuni, but examining the bodies of workmanship, in my opinion the beam tips toward the nidai on the basis of both shape and stylistic approaches.   The workmanship has a more refined elegance and shows a closer reflection to the influence of Sadamune than later generations which began to depart toward more vigorous and robust characteristics.

The jigane is a tightly and consistently knit ko-itame with mokume, supporting a bright ko-niedeki
gunome-midare hamon that is very bright and consistently rendered.  The tiny nie glisten everywhere along the length of the habuchi and the jinie is dense providing wonderful luster to the jigane.  The soft midarekomi boshi is excellent, turning back in komaru toward the mune deeply in the kissaki, so deeply in fact, that it is nearly ichimai.  The boshi is incredibly healthy for a sword of this age considering over two hundred years of constant warfare subsequent to it's creation.  It is osuriage and mumei, with two ana in the nakago which was attentively shortened.  It is light and well balanced in hand.
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