Takase Kozan (1868-1934) produced the same type of articulated iron model animals as the Myochin armour makers had done in the Edo period it is believed under the tutelage of the worker Tomiki Isuke (1853-1894). But he is best known for his crustaceans, and particularly lobsters, and the name Muneaki, in respect for his Myochin antecedents is found on the work of his school. In addition to iron he used other metals including the traditional coloured alloys found on Edo-period sword fittings, such as shakudo (black alloy of copper with a little gold) and shibuichi (‘one part in four,’ an alloy of copper and silver in a range of colours through silver, grey, brown and black), together with copper, silver and gold, and the additional colours enabled by the use of these alloys greatly added to the realism of his works. Examples of work made in the Kozan studio include the well known iron lobster in the British Museum with the same signature Muneaki as the present piece, and others sold in Christie’s rooms in recent years including one of iron signed Kozan sei (Lot 65 New York 8 October 2001), a lobster of shibuichi signed Kozan and with a cursive kao (Lot 764 New York 18 September 2013) – (the same signature appears on a shibuichi snake signed Kozan with a cursive kao – Lot 763 New York 18 September 2013), one of copper signed Kozanbo Muneaki (Lot 765 New York 18 September 2013), and a silver gilt lobster signed Tomiki Muneyoshi (Lot 85 New York 19 September 2000).
This lot is accompanied by an exhibition caption and a label reading ‘bronze prize’. It is believed therefore that the present lobster received the Bronze Prize probably shortly after it was made and probably at the exhibition Daiten Kinen Kyoto Hakurankai held in 1915 from 1st October to 19th December in celebration of the accession of the Taisho Emperor.
For another lobster made by the same artist in the British Museum, see Harada Kazutoshi, Jizai Okimono – Articulated iron figures of animals, (Kyoto, 2010), p. 68-69, pl. 24.