The scabbard and handle are made of finely carved stag antler and dark hardwood, the latter finely inlaid with eight minuscule ants, all made of neatly incised and gilt bronze. This design was the ‘trademark’ of Jikan Ganbun, which is why the present work is attributed to him although it is unsigned.
LENGTH 27.5 cm (overall)
Condition: Age cracks and some losses, both as visible on the images in the catalogue and online. One small piece of stag antler is loose. The blade has been polished and shows minimal traces of corrosion. The blade hinge bears minor scratches and the blade does not retract entirely into the scabbard. Fine natural patina and wear overall.
Provenance: The present owner, a German private collector, found this lot in the attic of his grandparents 60 years ago while playing as a child. He has kept it ever since.
Although for some years it has been recorded that Ganbun worked in Kyoto and Edo, he was at one time thought to have also lived and worked in Iwami Province. He was an adept metalworker, renowned for his meticulous, lifelike miniature ants with which he inlaid his own carved netsuke, as well as adding to wood netsuke and works of art by other makers.
Note that it was not possible to remove the blade for cataloguing, hence it is unknown if it is signed or not.