A delightfully unique Namban tsuba made from the back of a French watch case. This has a round cup shape and is made from gold plated copper. Carved in openwork with filigree design and surface carving. The back plate is unadorned and was probably originally that way.
This tsuba was first recorded in the Walter L. Behrens collection of England. It was published and sold in 1914 as part of the Behrens estate. Robert Haynes had mentioned in his offering of this tsuba that it was a famous work in Europe and that it came to the US recently. More recently, it was published in the 9th Kokusai Tosogu Kai catalog (2014) in an article by Fred Geyer on Namban tosogu.
The stylized "JB" carved on the face may identify this as a watch by Jean Baptiste Baillon. He was a famous watch-maker in Paris, France working in the 1700s (d.1772). Baillon was so well regarded in his time that he acquired the title of Clockmaker to the French Queen (Marie Antonette), wife of the Louis XV (1710-1774), King of France.
This history and story of this tsuba is fascinating to ponder. How did such an expensive watch find its way to Japan and what was the occasion or reason to have it converted to a tanto tsuba? It may have been a gift to a person of some status or a high-end import of its time. Displaying ones command of foreign culture was in vogue among some wealthy Japanese in the Edo period. We can see that this tsuba was mounted more than once in its service and must have been quite a status symbol for its owners of the past.
An historically important tsuba that clearly connects two cultures across vast distance with a rich history from well-known collections.