Pair of stirrups with grape and arabesque motifs inlayed with silver
Iron, silver inlay
Signed 喜田村作 Made by Kitamura
Japan, Momoyama period, 16th century
Awase-bako (collector box)
The grape and arabesque design was originally considered as a symbol of abundance and prosperity in the Mediterranean Sea since the ancient times. The design went to China via the Silk Road from Greece, and it arrived at Japan in the Asuka – Nara period. There are some textiles of the age as silk brocades and tills in the Shōsōin, the treasure house that belongs to Tōdai-ji temple in Nara.
After the middle of 8th century, the foreign culture became outdated with the flourishing of the Japanaese culture, this design declined and was not used until the 16th century.
In 1543, the Portuguese explorers arrived to Japan and the Nanban trade began. Japan had traded with Portugal and Spain directly until Japan closed the door to foreigners in 1639. During the Nanban trade period, the European culture influenced Japan. The grape and arabesque motif came into fashion again in the Momoyama period.
On this pair of stirrups, the splendid work of inlaying with silver is done on all over the surface of the stirrups in iron. The motif was inlayed like a painting with a free and easy touch. The atmosphere is absolutely of the Momoyama period. And the symbol of prosperity must have been an ardent desire for people of the time. Insides are lacquered with red lacquer, and have the small damages because of usage. It is a good evidence that they were well used, however, the condition is rather good.
Kitamura was a famous family name of metal workers in Kyoto in the Momoyama period. A piece with the same signature is registered as a cultural heritage in Japan.