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An iron articulated model of a snake
An iron articulated model of a snake


An iron articulated model of a snake
20th century, signed Muneyoshi (Tanaka Tadayoshi; ?-1958)
The russet-iron snake constructed of numerous hammered plates joined inside the body, the head incised with scales and fitted with a hinged jaw opening to reveal a movable tongue, eyes finished in shakudo and gilt; signature on underside of jaw
38 3/8in. (97.5cm.) long
Robert L. Ripley (1890-1949)
Acquired by the current owner in the 1940's

Lot Essay

This is the work of a modern metal artist, Tanaka Tadayoshi, known for his articulated iron figures of the Taisho and early Showa periods. Tadayoshi apprenticed in the Kyoto workshop of Takase Kozan (1869-1934), who directed the mass-production of ornamental iron pieces for both domestic and international markets.

For similar work signed by Muneyoshi in the British Museum, see Harada Kazutoshi, ed., Jizai okimono Articulated Iron Figures of Animals, vol. 11 of Bessatsu Rokusho (Kyoto: Maria Shobo., Ltd., 2010), pl. 12.

Ripley was an American cartoonist, entrepreneur, amateur anthropologist and collector who created the famous Ripley's Believe It Or Not! newspaper panel series, radio show and television series featuring odd facts from around the world. He made his first trip around the world in 1922. In 1929, he drew the attention of the publisher William Randolph Hearst who gave Believe It Or Not! its syndicated debut in seventeen newspapers wordwide. He traveled throughout Asia with financial assistance from Hearst. For several months after he first traveled to China, he signed his cartoons Rip Li. During these travels he picked up many strange and unbelievable souvenirs that later became an extensive collection of entertaining oddities. Flamboyantly eccentric, he kept a 28-foot boa constrictor as a pet. After a trip to Asia in 1932, he opened his first museum, the Odditorium, in Chicago. By the end of the decade, there were Odditoriums across the country. The one in New York City's Times Square is still going strong. He had a home in New York, where he died in 1949. His estate was sold at auction that same year. For another "oddity" from his collection, see lot 688.

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