Ornamental articulated metalwork figures (jizai okimono) were first made in the eighteenth century. It is not certain whether they were initially inspired by Chinese or even Western prototypes. Those craftsmen whose work is best documented, including the Kyoto artist Takase Kozan (Takase Torakichi; 1869-1934), were active in the late nineteenth century. Most are known for realistic figures of animals.
Kozan was prolific--many examples of his work survive--but the court carriage shown here may be his masterpiece. Kozan was born in Kanazawa City, north of Kyoto. In 1883, he began to work in Kobe for the ceramic section of the Export Item Production Department, a shop owned by the trader Ikeda Seisuke. In 1887, he moved to the metalwork section of the Kyoto branch of the shop. He studied metalwork under Tomiki Isuke (1853-1894), a blacksmith from Kanazawa who moved to Kyoto and began to specialize in articulated iron crabs and lobsters.
In 1893, Kozan established his own business producing metalwork and other products for both the domestic and export markets. He managed a large studio of craftsmen. His clients included the royal family. In 1910, the crown prince purchased several of Kozan's figures of insects at the Kyoto Commercial Products Exhibition Hall. For the next twenty years, Kozan submitted numerous works to national industrial expositions, promoted the decorative art industry in Kyoto and served as judge for many exhibitions.