Sword Guard (Tsuba) Depicting Spider Web on Dead Tree (枯木に蜘蛛の巣図鐔)
Not on view
The entire plate of the tsuba is carved to resemble a dead tree, with a spider web and threads inlaid in gold nunome-zōgan. A spiderweb on a dead tree combined with an openwork design (as here represented by the small ko-sukashi towards the bottom and the two hitsu-ana) alludes to a famous scene from the Genpei War (1180-1185). In 1181, Taira warrior Kajiwara Kagetoki (梶原景時, 1162-1200) was sent to pursue the fleeing Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝, 1147-1199). Kagetoki discovered Yoritomo hiding in the hollow trunk of a fallen tree but as he was switching sides, he did not reveale Yoritomo’s hideout. A spider had spun its web over the opening in the trunk since Yoritomo had crawled inside and so Kagetoki pointed out to his men that no one could be hiding therein as that spider web was intact.
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.