Important Cultural PropertySaddle with Chrysanthemums

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  • 1 saddle
  • Lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl
  • Pommel: H. 30.5 cm; cantle: H. 30.0 cm; saddle bars: L. 43.0 cm
  • Kamakura period, 13th–14th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • H-4639

Notable features of this saddle include its elegant form and intricate designs rendered in mother-of-pearl inlay. These features make this work stand out among saddles decorated with mother-of-pearl from Japan's medieval period (1192–1573). In marked contrast to earlier examples, which give an impression of weight and stability, this saddle's pommel and cantle (arched front and back sections) rise high, while the four downward-thrusting parts are long and narrow, raising the saddle's center of gravity. Saddles created in and after the late Heian period (794–1192) often have carved notches on the sides of their pommels, but it is unusual for such notches to be semicircular, as in this example.

This saddle is coated entirely in black lacquer, while designs in mother-of-pearl decorate both sides of its pommel and cantle. Chrysanthemum sprays, dragonflies, butterflies, and other motifs are outlined with thinly cut pieces of shell from the great green turban, less than one millimeter in width. The dense composition, as well as the artisan's ability to select suitable shell pieces for the curved form of the saddle, attest to the high level of mother-of-pearl technique attained in medieval Japan.

The saddle bars, on which the rider sits, are densely speckled with metallic powder and thus exhibit a contrasting look. The bars have an ink inscription stating that this saddle once belonged to a feudal lord named Fukushima Takaharu (1573–1633), and that the bars were replaced in 1608 (Keichō 13). Later, this saddle was acquired by Masuda Takashi (pseudonym: Don'ō; 1848–1938), an industrialist of modern Japan.