Pair of Stirrups (Abumi)

Date: late 16th–early 17th century

Culture: Japanese

Medium: Iron, lacquer, mother-of-pearl

Dimensions: L. of each 11 3/4 in (29.8 cm); H. of each 10 3/8 in. (26.5 cm); W. of each 4 7/8 in. (12.5 cm)

Classification: Equestrian Equipment-Stirrups

Credit Line: Purchase, Tom and Lore Firman Gift, in honor of George and Ruth Kosaka, 2008

Accession Number: 2008.120.1, .2


his pair of stirrups is made in the traditional form that is unique to Japan. The form is known as hato mune (pigeon breast) and cradles the foot in an open tray curved up at the front and terminating at the top in a rectangular arm topped by a large buckle. Here the arm is pierced just below the buckle with a stylized dragonfly design. The stirrups are made of iron, which is covered entirely in lacquer and profusely inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Stirrups decorated with mother-of-pearl are rare, and this pair is perhaps the finest surviving example. The outer edges of the stirrups are embellished with a repeating coin or treasure motif known as shipôtsunagimon. Prominently placed on the front of each stirrup is a mon (heraldic emblem) consisting of three hollyhock leaves in a circle that signifies ownership by the Tokugawa family, which held the office of shogun (supreme military commander of Japan) from 1603 to 1867. At the time these stirrups were made, luxurious objects that so prominently displayed the Tokugawa mon would have been appropriate only for Ieyasu Tokugawa, his son Hidetada Tokugawa (the first and second shogun, respectively), or one of their closest relatives.