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An iron articulated model of a dragon fish
An iron articulated model of a dragon fish

EDO PERIOD (18TH CENTURY), SIGNED TOTO JU MYOCHIN SHIKIBU (SOSUKE)

Details
An iron articulated model of a dragon fish
Edo period (18th century), signed Toto ju Myochin Shikibu (Sosuke)
The russet-iron dragon fish finely constructed of numerous hammered plates joined inside the body; the mouth opens, the tongue moves, the fins spread and the body bends, the head applied with elaborate horns and spines and the eyes of shakudo embellished with gilt, signature on underside
13in. (28cm.) long
With lacquered wood box
Literature
Tokyo National Museum, ed., Jizai okimono: Honmono no yo ni jiyu ni ugokaseru hebi ya konchu (Articulated [iron] figures: Movable representations from nature from snakes to insects) (Tokyo: Tokyo National Museum, 2008), pl. 4 and fig. 3.

Harada Kazutoshi, ed., Jizai okimono Articulated Iron Figures of Animals, vol. 11 of Bessatsu Rokusho (Kyoto: Maria Shobo Co., Ltd., 2010), pl. 14.

Sano Art Museum, ed., Bakumatsu Meiji no chozetsu giko Excellent techniques of metal crafts, the late Edo and Meiji period (Mishima: Sano Art Museum, 2010), pl. 161.
Exhibited
Tokyo National Museum, "Jizai okimono: Honmono no yo ni jiyu ni ugokaseru hebi ya konchu" (Articulated [iron] figures: Movable representations from nature from snakes to insects), 2008.11.18-2009.2.1

"Bakumatsu Meiji no chozetsu giko Excellent techniques of metal crafts, the late Edo and Meiji period" shown at the following venues:
Sen-oku Hakuko kan Annex, Tokyo, 2010.10.16-12.12
Sano Art Museum, Mishima, Shizuoka, 2011.1.7-2.20
Osaka Museum of History, 2011.4.13-5.29
Okayama Prefectural Museum, 2011.6.3-7.18

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Heakyum Kim

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Lot Essay

This inventive creature is a dolphin-like sea beast called a shachi. With its moving jaws, spine and fins it is a bit of fantasy come to life.

It is not clear why articulated animals and insects were first made in the workshops of armor makers in the early eighteenth century. The dragon model in the Tokyo National Museum made by Myochin Muneaki in 1713 is the earliest dated example. Typically, the artists of articulated figures made in this period were members of the Myochin school, prominent armor makers particulary skilled at forging and tempering steel. By the middle of the Edo period, Japan was at peace after centuries of civil war. The demand for arms significantly decreased, influencing many Myochin-school metalsmiths to turn to ornamental sword guards and arms, tea utensils and decorative objects in iron. Some of the articulated figures may have evolved from ornaments intended for helmets and other accoutrements.

Myochin Shikibu worked in Edo, first under the name Shikibu and later Osumi no kami. His dated works include helmets from 1689, 1704 and 1707.

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