Rare and Small Silver Jizai (Fully Articulated) Okimono of a Dragon, Meiji Period, 19th Century
Masterfully crafted and realistically rendered, the beast with moveable joints in the jaw, body, legs and claws, all the while holding the hilt of a shinto sword with its tail
length 18.5" — 47 cm.
12.7 oz. — 395 grams
Despite being one of the least documented types of Japanese decorative arts, jizai okimono became very popular with Europeans in the second half of the 19th century. Made from materials including iron, copper, shibuchi (copper and silver alloy) and shakudo (copper and gold alloy), jizai okimono depict animals, both real and imaginary, with articulated bodies and limbs.
Many of these pieces were created by the famous Myochin family in the late 18th Century. They were long revered for their iron forging and hammer work, but with the demand for arms and armour diminishing, they began to produce jizai okimono such as lobsters, dragons and insects to make a living. An example of an iron jizai okimono dragon, signed Myochin Kiyoharu, was sold at Bonham’s London, November 10, 2011 lot 376.
During the Meiji restoration, Japan began to open up and participate in numerous international fairs and expositions. This was when many foreigners, both living in the major Japanese cities and abroad, started noticing the top quality craftsmanship of Japanese decorative arts. The increase in their demand saw an increase in the use of precious materials in the arts, including gold and silver. The present silver dragon was made during this time. It features the realism and articulation of the earlier Myochin examples, but is enhanced by the use of silver and gold alloy. Though extremely rare, silver examples of jizai okimono dragons have been published including one featured in ‘Jizai Okimono’ at the Tokyo National Museum, 2008, no. 8.
From the Estate of Ann Mabel Cawthra (1869-1943), wife of Agar Adamson (1865-1929), Toronto. Acquired in Japan circa 1900 and thence by descent to the current owner.
Department: Asian Art