A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century
Lot 311*
A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century
Sold for £120,000 (US$ 198,861) inc. premium
Auction Details
A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century
Lot Details
A fine, rare and large iron jizai (fully articulated) okimono of a dragon
Myochin School, Edo Period, 18th/19th century
Realistically rendered with a long serpentine and undulating body, forged with numerous hammered scales joined inside the body with karakuri tsunagi, the leg joints, head, mouth and ears each constructed of moving parts, unsigned; with wood storage box. 137cm (54in) overall length. (2).

Footnotes

  • 鉄自在置物 龍 無銘 江戸時代(18/19世紀)

    Of all the categories of Edo-period artefacts eagerly collected outside Japan for the last century and a half, articulated animals have the least trace of documentary evidence concerning their origin and development. Even the Japanese word for them, jizai or jizai okimono, appears to be a post-Edo term. However despite the obscurity of their origins, these displays of Oriental dexterity perfectly matched a trend in Western Orientalist taste in the last quarter of the 19th century. In the West they were first highlighted in Le Japon Artistique of 1881 which reproduces in three different positions and describes in detail, an articulated frog. However, despite their creation in Japan a century earlier, these articulated animals were only brought back to the attention of a Japanese audience in October 1983, when several examples were displayed in the special exhibition Japanese Metalwork held at the Tokyo National Museum.

    According to Harada Kazutoshi, Special Research Chair at the Tokyo National Museum, the earliest-known jizai okimono dates from 1713. It is not clear for what purpose they were made, or from where the complicated manufacturing techniques originated. However, as the demand for armour markedly diminished during the peaceful reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period, the famous Myochin Family, renowned for their excellent forging of iron armour, turned to the production of other forged iron materials such as tea ceremony kettles, boxes, sword guards and jizai okimono. Since the makers were working in concert with the government's policy of promoting industry, exporting decorative art and participating in Domestic and International Expositions, many of these jizai-okimono found their way to the West.

    A fine example of a jizai okimono, this large naturalistically-rendered dragon can move its body remarkably freely; the limbs and claws are also movable and the legs turn 180 degrees and are therefore able to imitate the movements of their real-life counterparts. The largeness of the head, which is the dragon's notable characteristic, adds powerfulness to its appearance.

    Jizai okimono range in size and length from the smallest (measuring around 5cm) to the largest at approximately 188cm. The dragon presented here is to date the largest dragon that has ever been apparently recorded and is, furthermore, only one of three known that are comparable in size and workmanship.

    Compare with a very similar but slightly smaller articulated iron dragon of 100.5cm long, in the Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto, illustrated by Harada Kazutoshi, Jizai Okimono - Articulated iron figures of animals, Maria Shobo Co., Ltd. Kyoto, January 2010, pp.32 and 33. Another articulated iron dragon by Myochin Muneaki (1682-1751) which measures 135cm is in the Tokyo National Museum collection, illustrated, ibid., pp.24 and 25.
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